By: Mike Anderson
Residents are calling on York Region to lower the speed limit on Warden Ave. from 80 to 70 km/h.
They argue that commuters and day-trippers use Warden Ave., from Ravenshoe Rd. to Baseline Rd., to bypass the traffic lights and rush-hour congestion on Woodbine Ave., and often drive at speeds above 90 km/h on the narrow two-lane road.
“It’s scary when they go fast, and the traffic is worse than it’s ever been,” said John Munro, whose farm is located on Warden Ave., near Lockie Sideroad, just north of the hamlet of Belhaven.
“They’re doing 90 or a 100 km/h up here. I want to see it reduced to 70 km/h, so that will reduce the number of people who are coming up the road.”
“Warden, north of Ravenshoe, is a bypass of Woodbine, to miss the traffic lights and big box stores, for those in a hurry.”
Munro argues Warden Ave., a Regional road, should have the same speed limit as nearby Kennedy Ave. and McCowan Rd., which are both Town roads that run parallel to Warden Ave.
“Warden is the only road that’s 80 km/h. The other two, Kennedy and McCowan, are both 70 km/h. And Warden is 70 km/h in East Gwillimbury, and sometimes it’s 60 km/h when’s there’s extra housing,” said Munro, a long time resident and husband of the late Julia Munro, who served as York-Simcoe’s MPP for 23 years.
“The three roads are exactly the same, and this one gets more traffic because people are escaping Woodbine.”
Munro, who must walk 152 feet south from his driveway to get to his mailbox, said Canada Post forced him to move it almost ten years ago.
It was concerned that a mail delivery vehicle, hidden by the rise of a hill just north of his farm, would be hit by oncoming motorists.
Back then, walking 152 feet to get his mail was just a minor inconvenience.
But, with traffic getting worse and having to rely on a walking cane for balance, Munro, who’s now in his 80s, finds his daily walk along the road’s gravel shoulder an adventure of sorts.
“The big brains in the post office decided it was safe for me to walk the 152 feet on the narrow shoulder. But I don’t feel safe doing it now, as the vehicles are not doing 80 km/h.”
While he hasn’t had any close calls yet, he isn’t shy about letting motorists know they’re too close.
“If somebody is coming too close, I stick my cane out. They do move over.”
Belhaven residents are also concerned that the 80 km/h speed limit on Warden Ave. does not allow motorists enough time to reduce their speed before entering the hamlet’s 50 km/h speed zone.
They say speeding vehicles pose a serious risk to residents walking along the narrow shoulders or pulling out of their driveways.
Ed Baird, 74, who has lived in Belhaven, near the corner of Bethel Sideroad and Warden Ave., for the past 35 years, has noticed a significant increase in traffic – along with the noise that comes with it – and numerous vehicles speeding through the hamlet’s 50 km/hr zone.
“It’s a regular occurrence, especially during the morning and afternoon rush hours. They go 90 km/h along Woodbine Ave., and then they come into the 50 km/h zone, and it’s a straight road. They don’t see any cops, so they just hammer it,” Baird said.
“Yesterday, a guy was going by doing 60 km/h, and another guy passed him on the road right in front of my place. It happens all the time.”
Baird argues if the speed limit is reduced on Warden Ave., it will slow everyone down and reduce the risk of a serious accident.
He points out that Belhaven, which has roughly 20 households, has no sidewalks — they were removed by the Town over a decade ago.
And, while the Region recently replaced the dirt shoulders with gravel, Baird says they are still too narrow and dangerous to walk along, especially during rush hour.
Now that he needs a walker, Baird says he must walk on the paved section of the road.
“I don’t go on rush hours, of course,” he said. “But even at other times, some people won’t move over.”
But Baird is not just concerned about seniors, like himself. The demographics of Belhaven have changed in recent years. There are now more younger families with small children.
“There are 17 kids in Belhaven, and I’m concerned about their safety,” he said.
Since 2018, the Region has rotated speed boards in and out of Belhaven to monitor speeding. The results show an average speed of between 51 to 53 km/h through the hamlet in both directions, indicating a high compliance with the 50 km/h speed zone.
Still, according to Nelson Costa, York Region’s Manager for Corridor Control and Safety, when speed boards are not present in Belhaven, average speeds are generally higher, in some cases reaching 77 km/h.
Baird disputes the speed board results, arguing that at least one was located in the wrong place, at the top of a hill, which northbound motorists must drive up before entering Belhaven.
“So when you come up the hill, you’re going to slow down anyhow,” he said.
He also says that speed boards are inaccurate, as motorists typically slow down when they see one.
“I could see tail lights going on in front of my place. So you know, people hammered on the brakes when they saw the speed board. That’s how they get the nice speeds. It slows everyone down,” he said.
Baird has tried to draw attention to the speeding issue with Town Council and the Region, but there’s been no real move to reduce the speed limit on Warden Ave. so far.
In 2019, in an email to The Post, the Region argued that any change to the speed limit on Warden Ave. would have to be approved through a complicated process, including a review of the Transportation Association of Canada’s speed limit guidelines.
The Region also warned, “that lowering the speed limits without changing the physical characteristics of the road, traffic patterns, and/or land use can have negative impacts.”
However, the Region appears to have had a change of heart.
In an email to The Post on July 7, Costa said the Region is now working with residents to review the speeding issue in Belhaven.
“In addition, staff are taking a broader view of speed limits on Warden Avenue between Ravenshoe Road and Baseline Road. This review is underway,’ he said.
The Region also recently added advanced speed reduction signs on Warden Ave. – a 250-metre warning that the 50 km/h speed zone in Belhaven is approaching.
It has also promised to install speed limit pavement markings with the 50 km/h limit on the road’s surface.
While Baird appreciates these changes, he believes it’s not enough, and, like Munro, he wants to keep up the pressure to reduce the overall speed limit on Warden Ave.
He’s also calling on the Region to install photo radar in Belhaven.
“I asked a YRP officer the other day, how bad an accident do we need to have till something is done?”