Public insecurity

Westwood runners.JPG
WSHS students out for a morning run on Côte St. Charles. What will it take to change public thinking on Hudson’s need for secure pedestrian/cycling corridors?

You’re looking at one of the biggest public security risks in Hudson, the absence of sidewalks and/or cycling paths on the town’s main streets. Here, a pack of Westwood Senior runners heads south on the two-foot-wide security strip along Côte St. Charles. A driver pulls wide around them near the crest of the hill. The driver won’t be able to see oncoming traffic until the last possible moment.

There have been a number of near-death experiences on Côte St. Charles. One involved a hit-and-run transport rig, another a school bus. Miraculously, nobody has been seriously hurt.

Cameron is equally dangerous, but for different reasons. The intersection with Harwood/342 routinely sees near misses as westbound vehicles in the Hudson turning lane conceal vehicles continuing west. Drivers waiting to turn left or right on Harwood sometimes don’t see the second vehicle until after they’ve begun their turn. Accidents are routine.

Cyclists and pedestrians avoid Cameron’s so-called bike/pedestrian path like the plague because they risk being trapped between traffic and the curb. Vehicles heading up the hill are often forced all the way over to the curb by oncoming traffic at the sharp downhill turn.

Over the past month I’ve spoken to scores of residents who resent having to risk their lives to go for a walk that includes being exposed on Cameron, Côte St. Charles and many parts of Main Road. They can’t let their kids walk to school. They can’t bike together as a family. They look with envy at the pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly streets of St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion.

The one thing the town has always had in abundance are excuses for why residents can’t enjoy safe cycling and walking. The first conversation I remember took place when Elizabeth Corker was mayor. There’s no room for a right of way. We’d have to expropriate. We don’t want to take setbacks from residents. I remember hearing those same excuses at St. Lazare town hall meetings. The people who gave them were kicked out of office, but it took the tragedy of Patricia Jolicoeur’s grievous injury and a life-changing criminal record for a reckless young driver to change public thinking.

Safer streets can be incorporated in the promised repaving initiative, but it requires planning to do it as cheaply as possible. Ditches need to be excavated, storm drains and culverts installed, then backfilled and paved. Once wands or other removable separation devices are added, Hudson’s pedestrians and cyclists can walk and ride safely.

None of this happens by wishful thinking. The $1.5M road repaving loan bylaw presented last week is a drop in the bucket. But if we don’t get serious about making our streets safer, nothing will happen until something tragic does.


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