I Spy With My Little Radar

dupontsignED2.JPGI've been driving along Dupont street for years. Its a street rife with danger especially at some of the more notorious intersections like Dufferin, Bathurst or Spadina where it can be a very tricky manoeuvre if you're travelling north and want to turn left onto Dupont.

Cars emerge unseen, hurtling southbound through the intersections from under the CP railway bridges.Then there are the drivers who insist on bombing around the S curve right before the Kendal Avenue intersection.

I used to live on Kendal, only a couple of houses south of Dupont, and I always imagined a driver who's timing was just a tiny bit off allowing his car to take its natural course and ending up in someone's front yard or worse, in our someone's living room. (In fact I'm pretty sure there have been just those types of accidents).

Not that I don't understand the thrills to be had on and around Dupont street. A little G-force on the S curve or the heady drop-and-recovery from under the CP bridges. Even the dreaded left turns can sometimes feel like a game of chicken – a welcome test of reflex and driving skill in the otherwise aopressively dull, crawling traffic of Toronto. We are most of us Formula One wannabes at heart. Aren't we?

Its curious. Almost daily I see a car pulled over by police on the bottom of Bathrust street. But on Dupont? In the ten years living at various locations a stone's throw from Dupont, I cannot remember ever seeing anyone pulled over by police for anything.

Dupont has always been the Wild West of driving. Lawless – drive at your own risk – caution; this street is not supervised by lifeguards.

You can see, then, how completely bizarre it was to see what I saw the other night. Under a yellow sign reading 'YOUR SPEED' was a seizure-inducing bright red LED flashing the numbers '51'.It wasn't me travelling at 51KM/hr in a 40 zone. I was going about 45. Must have been the guy in front of me.

hammer and sickle suhsED2.jpgHow Soviet. Do they think I don't know how fast my car is going? It wasn't a camera (we have, and have had, plenty of those in various forms) so its not like they were out to covertly stick me with a speeding ticket. No, this seemed to be something much darker.Like an animal trainer repeatedly reminding his beast of its commands until it finally becomes completely servile. I wondered if the City was doing the same thing – brainwashing us into following their orders of travelling at the speed limit. I know we have a left-leaning mayor, and that's fine with me. But this new speed-mind control seemed downright totalitarian.

I suppose I should mention that I get just a little paranoid on occasion. It usually passes quickly enough and did so that night. Once it had, I jumped in my car to test this new toy out. This was around 2:00 AM, mind you, and Dupont was all but deserted. I drove down the street doing a good 60KM/hr right past the new radar machine and…

Nothing. The sign stayed blank. And has ever since.

What's going on you ask? Well first of all, as it turns out, this is not a new device. It's been in place since September 2005 as a part of the City of Toronto's 'Watch Your Speed' program which is itself part of a much broader initiative 'We're all pedestrians' to make drivers more aware of pedestrian safety.There were even some awesome posters put up on sidewalk garbage bins and TTC shelters though it could be argued pedestrians were more likely to see those than drivers.

Watch Your Speed Program
Four speed display trailers are used throughout the city in neighbourhoods with a history of local speeding. A sign mounted on the trailer reminds motorists of the posted speed limit in the area while the radar unit measures the speed of approaching vehicles and displays this speed back to the motorist.

AT first glance this seems a good idea after all. Slow people down with these display trailers on busy, speedy streets, especially near intersections and crosswalks. But the Dupont display (east of Howland Avenue) can't be more than 80 meters from a crosswalk at Brunswick and that just doesn't give speeding drivers enough time to slow down.

Besides, since first noticing it, I've watched several cars speed right past me without so much as a burp from the display trailer. Must be busted.

Speaking of busted. Though clearly this program is only at the beta stage you have to wonder if the city just might be trying to save a little cash with this technology. Wouldn't it be more effective to post some actual cops on Dupont and nail these speeders? Police are expensive I guess.

Just to be clear. In reality I'm a pretty cautious driver and besides I often have my right honourable friend backseat driving beisde me. A shout of "Cyclist!" or "Pedestrian!" can be quite useful in suppressing my Formula One aspirations.

Pedestrian Safety Statistics

* Half of all traffic fatalities involve pedestrians.
* Pedestrian Fatalities in 2004: 28
* Pedestrian Fatalities in 2005: 12 (to August 31st)
* More than 2,300 pedestrians are injured every year in traffic collisions (Average: six people/day).

News release: September 2005.


Display Trailer photograph (modified) by Joe Clark

Hammer and Sickle mock up by su'hs with no other source information.

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One Comment on “I Spy With My Little Radar”

  1. Ian Says:

    Sorry, no flaming allowed, rod with a small “r”. If you can’t make a comment without insult, it’s coming down. This is an ages old post.
    As for the colour of the comment field, well never mind.
    I’m not interested in your notion of best current practices or in being insulted.
    Your comment will remain for 3 hours – allowing you time to replace it with something civilized.

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