From a traffic standpoint Covid-19 is changing how we behave on our roadways. Previous articles posted on this Gorski Consulting site have discussed lower traffic volumes, higher speeds and lower numbers of higher-severity collisions. These are dramatic changes, not just in Canada, but in many nations where lock-downs have changed society. No single factor has ever changed transportation in the way this global pandemic has. Therefore we continue to gather data while comparing to previous testing when the pandemic was not in effect.
The latest site where testing has been performed is on Brydges Street near Kiwanis Park in east London, Ontario. Interest in Brydges Street comes from the fact that two elementary schools and a park exist within a distance of just 600 meters. This draws many pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children to the area. There are additional problems in that the site contains two curves. Such curves are enablers of driver loss-of-control events that can lead a vehicle to travel onto a sidewalk and potentially strike a pedestrian. On September 20, 2017 the City of London lowered the speed limit through the site from 50 to 40 km/h.
Overall Description of Site
Below is an overall view of London, Ontario and a red circle has been placed in the location of the Brydges Street site. It is a busy collector road located on east side of the City. The City lists its traffic volume (AADT) as 9,500 vehicles west of Kiwanis Park and 10,500 vehicles east of the Park. Just east of the testing area Brydges Street takes on a new name, Wavell Street.
The image below is a view of the Bridges Street site with the green zone of Kiwanis Park. Although the roadway runs from northeast to southwest, for ease of discussion we will refer to it running east to west. The curves in the road are located to the east and west of Kiwanis Park. The two elementary schools are located along the south side of Brydges Street east of Kiwanis Park.
The image below is from Googlemaps and shows the same view as the image above. There are bike trails running through Kiwanis Park and riders must cross Brydges Street in the vicinity where the videotaping was conducted. On May 17 and 19, 2011 video cameras were set up near Prince Charles Public School because a Speed Display Board (SDB) was installed by the City of London adjacent to the east end of the school building. The board flashed the speed of eastbound vehicles and so this was of interest during that testing.
A subsequent videotaping session occurred on April 30, 2020 at a location slightly west of the original location. Again the City of London had set up a SDB to advise eastbound drivers of their speed. The location of the SDB during the April 30, 2020 was located about 370 metres west of the original location on May 17 and 19, 2011.
A closer view of the west end of the site is shown in the image below. During the April 30, 2020 session a video camera was placed at the bus stop (depicted by the blue square) on the south side of Brydges just east of Cornish Street. This camera pointed eastward and documented details such as the activation of brake lights on eastbound vehicles. A second camera was positioned near the same location on the north side of Brydges Street, pointing southward at a traffic cone which was the “100 metre marker” for our testing. This location can be seen near the lower centre of the image below.
Additional cameras were placed at 50 and 75-metre intervals along the south side of the road, eastward, up to a location at the very top of the image above. This monitoring was over a total distance of 250 metres. The SDB was positioned 100 metres east of the cameras at Cornish Street and 150 metres west of the last camera to the east.
The image below shows a view looking west at the video camera placed at the bus stop near Cornish Street. Eastbound vehicles on Brydges would be travelling around the curve in the background and had the opportunity to see this camera if they were paying attention. There is no reason to believe that the camera’s presence would cause them to increase their speed. In fact it is possible that some drivers might reduce their speed due to uncertainty about whether this was some kind of police speed enforcement.
The image below is a view looking east toward the Speed Display Board (SDB) which is mounted on the closest utility pole on the south side of Brydges. A video camera was placed at the utility pole facing westward so that eastbound vehicles could be observed approaching the SDB. Parked vehicles on the right are at the Kiwanis Park and further in the background is a small bridge over Pottersburg Creek.
The two images below show the location of one of the video cameras positioned at 150 metres east of the SDB.
In the above image a cone can be seen near the road edge. This was the “150-metre-east” marker. As eastbound vehicles progressed past such markers the video cameras captured the time of their passing. The time delay between the vehicle passing each of the markers is how average speeds were calculated. As an example, a vehicle taking 3 seconds to travel between two markers, 50 metres apart, would indicate that the average speed of the vehicle was 16.67 metres per second. Multiplying this by 3.6 gives the speed in kilometres per hour, or 60 km/h.
When multiple video cameras are synchronized the motion of eastbound vehicles is easy to follow from one camera to the next. Information such as brake applications or factors that might have interfered with a vehicle’s travel can also be observed and taken into account. In some instances it might be advantageous to select vehicles that are not obstructed by other traffic to see how a driver selected a travel speed versus being forced to travel behind a slower moving vehicles. These are some of the considerations that were taken into account during our analysis.
Description and Results of Testing on May, 2011
The videotaping on May 17 and 19, 2011 was focused on the functioning of the SDB that was mounted at the east end of Prince Charles public elementary school. The videotaping of May 17, 2011 was taken for approximately 1 hour commencing approximately after 1500 hours. The videotaping of May 19, 2019 was conducted for one hour between 1955 and 2055 hours. No video speed analysis was possible independent of the display on the SDB from either of these two sessions. However it was possible to count the number of eastbound vehicles over each of the one hour sessions.
During the one-hour session on May 17, 264 observations of eastbound vehicles were documented. In the May 19, one-hour session 210 eastbound vehicles were documented.
The May 19 session provided poor imagery of the SDB. Examining the display from the SDB determined that only 2 of the first 10 observations could be deciphered and even those were difficult to determine. It was clear that the low resolution of the video image as well as the distance to the board was not going to allow any reliable readings. Thus further analysis was abandoned.
Review of the SDB video from the May 17 session was more successful. By examining the video outside of the video-editting project the image of the board was clearer but it was also time consuming to shift between display modes. Thus the speed of all vehicles was not documented. Instead vehicles were selected if they were the only eastbound vehicle in the detection range of the SDB. This resulted in 56 observations being selected where the flickering values from the SDB were related a single vehicle. This flicking display of changing speeds often occurred over a time of about 4 to 5 seconds until the vehicle was too close to the SDB to achieve reliable values. For each observation the alternating values of speed were averaged arriving at a single speed. The average speed for all 56 observations was 52.69 km/h.
Description and Results of Testing on April 30, 2020
Speed calculations independent of the SDB were possible during this session because of the multiple video cameras and markers that were placed at equidistant intervals over the 250 metres of observation.
Analysis was conducted over the portion of the video from 1640 to 1740 hours. In that time 132 eastbound vehicles were documented. The location of the SDB was selected as “Zero” and cameras and markers were placed at the following locations with respect to the SDB:
- At 100 metres west
- At 50 metres west
- At Zero
- At 75 metres east
- At 150 metres east
From this arrangement four distance intervals could be created allowing for average speeds to be calculated within each interval. The average speeds obtained within these intervals are shown in the table below.
We wanted to know what the effect was of eastbound drivers being prevented from travelling at their desired speed because they were forced to travel behind slower vehicles. Thus we reviewed the 132 observations and selected 32 instances (“Single Vehicles Only”) where it was obvious that they were the only eastbound vehicles within the detection range of the SDB. This usually involved gaps of at least 10 seconds between vehicles ahead and behind the subject vehicle. Thus the average speed of those “Single Vehicles” is shown in the above table along with the full 132 vehicles. This selection of “Single Vehicles” was similar to the selection process for 56 vehicles in the May 17, 2011 session discussed above.
Discussion of the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Site Traffic
To summarize, the posted maximum speed at the site had been lowered on September 20, 2017 from 50 to 40 km/h. Thus the two videotaping sessions of May 17 and 19, 2011 were conducted during the higher speed limit while the April 30, 2020 session was conducted 3 1/2 years after the speed limit was lowered to 40 km/h. The only speed data that is available from May 2011 is from videotaping the Speed Display Board (SDB) and this gave an average speed of 52.69 km/h for “Single Vehicle”, eastbound vehicles.
There was speed data available from the April 30, 2020 session from both the SDB and the independent calculations of average speed within the discussed four distance intervals. The average speed from the distance intervals indicated that the speed of eastbound vehicles was very consistent throughout the total 250 metres of travel. As the vehicles entered the documentation zone at 100 to 50 metres west of the SDB their speed was about 49.28 km/h. Although there was a minimal dip in the average speed while approaching the SDB to 48.88 km/h one cannot believe that this small drop is meaningful given the small sample size of 132 vehicles. As the vehicles drove past the SDB the speed increased to 49.57 and 49.31 km/h. At best, one might say that this suggests that drivers did not change their speed as a result of passing the SDB.
Similar results were shown when looking at the smaller set of “Single Vehicles”. Again “Single Vehicles” are those that did not travel in a line of other vehicles such that, as they approached the SDB, there were no vehicles ahead of them and none behind them during the distance that they were being detected by the SDB. This smaller set of eastbound vehicles were found to be travelling at a slightly higher speed than the full set of observations. Their speed was reduced from 50.83 km/h as they entered the site to 49.36 as they exited. Again, one cannot conclude that this small reduction is meaningful. One should generally conclude that, overall, vehicles tended to travel about 10 km/h above the posted maximum speed regardless of the existence of the SDB.
Recent analysis at several sites in the vicinity of London, Ontario has shown that average speeds have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Below is a previously-shown table of findings from those sites that compares speeders at a pre-Covid session versus a session during the pandemic. Two levels of speeding are shown, 1) those who travelled at least 20 km/h above the speed limit and 2) those that travelled at least 30 km/h above the speed limit.
In comparison, the data from May 17 and 19, 2011 showed that no vehicle travelled 20 km/h or higher above the posted speed limit of 50 km/h. This was out of a total of (264 + 210) 474 vehicles.
For the April 30, 2020 session, 9 of the 132 vehicles travelled at 20 km/h or higher above the posted speed of 40 km/h. This represents a percentage of 6.82 %. Furthermore, there were no vehicles that travelled at 30 km/h or higher than the posted speed. These results are similar to the results from the other urban site of Hamilton Road west of Gore Road shown in the table above. This suggests that the increased number of speeders may be occurring on higher speed highways and not within urban centres. This suggestion is supported when we look at the data from the three sites containing highway speeds.
Highway speeds were at the Clarke Road, Highbury Ave and Highway 401 sites, as noted in the above table. At those sites the percentage of speeders travelling at 20 km/h or higher were 31.50, 9.12 and 46.15 per cent respectively. And those travelling at 30 km/h or higher were 6.00, 0.68 and 9.89 per cent respectively. While the results are not unanimous a trend seems to exist.
With respect to traffic volumes the Brydges Street site continued to show that traffic volumes have decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic. The data from May 2011 show that the traffic volumes in the two, one-hour sessions were 264 and 210 eastbound vehicles respectively. In contrast, during the April 30, 2020 travel volume of eastbound vehicles during the one-hour session was only 132 vehicles. The drop in vehicle traffic appears to have been in the range approaching 50%.
The table below has been shown in several previous website articles however it has now been updated to include the Brydges Site. This table shows a comparison of the sites where videotaping has been conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic along with data about the pre-Covid-19 session. This table shows how the reduction in traffic volume at the Brydges site is mirrored in the other sites except the Hamilton at Gore site. The Hamilton Road site is the only one where a substantially higher traffic volume was observed during a Covid-19 session.
Another table that has been shown in previous articles is also updated below with the Brydges site. This table summarizes the average speeds of vehicles observed during the various videotaping sessions.
The Brydges site data shows the speed of the “Single Vehicle” observations rather than all the observations because that is the only data this is available for both sessions. And unlike all the other sites and dates the May 17, 2011 data was taken from the Speed Display Board (SDB) as no other speed calculation was available.
The functioning and effectiveness of the SDB is another issue of research interest. Previous testing was conducted at another school zone site in London (Tweedsmuir Ave at St Bernadette’s Catholic Elementary School) where a SDB was installed. This issue will be addressed in a separate article soon to be posted to the Gorski Consulting website.
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