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Should downtown Peterborough’s main streets revert to 2-way roadways?

Click to play video: 'Should downtown Peterborough’s Water and George streets be two-way roadways?'
Should downtown Peterborough’s Water and George streets be two-way roadways?
For many decades, traffic has flowed in a single direction on George and Water streets in downtown Peterborough, Ont. But, what if these roadways were converted to two-ways? As Germain Ma reports, it's an idea some advocates are pushing. – May 14, 2024

For decades downtown Peterborough’s two main roadways have been one-way streets. But advocates say reverting George and Water streets to two-way roadways would help revitalize the downtown core.

Among the advocates is Peterborough area realtor Michael deCat, a former financial services expert, who has been lobbying for a return of two-way streets running north and south for George and Water streets — a setup last seen in the 1960s.

Last year, he presented a 10-page report on his study, noting there is no reference to any two-way traffic conversions in the city’s 2022 Transportation Master Plan.

“It’s never been considered, two-way traffic here, in a big way, but it’s happening in many other Ontario cities,” he said.

The City of Hamilton is currently tackling a simliar issue with Main Street. In Oakville, multiple two-way street conversions are planned.

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DeCat says two-way traffic conversions would slow down traffic, giving businesses additional exposure, and also increase pedestrian traffic.

“Motorists, instead of having one perspective on the downtown area, they’d have two perspectives,” he said. “They’d be more likely to get out of their cars and walk around. This would have a positive influence on businesses because they’d have more pedestrian traffic.”

He also thinks it could create better access, reducing the need of vehicles to circle blocks to reach their destinations.

DeCat has also argued that two-way traffic would increase transit stop options, offer more opportunities for downtown events, while also improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area was reached for comment on the idea.

As for deCat, he says he has spoken to businesses who support the idea of a return of two-way traffic.

“I did canvass the downtown district and I only found one merchant that was opposed,” he said. “The rest were all ears.”

The traffic conversion is an idea that Town Ward Coun. Joy Lachica also supports. The city’s infrastructure and planning portfolio co-chair said in a statement on Monday that she’s “looking forward to discussing it with city council and staff.”

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Another advocate is Sue Sauvé, the city’s transportation demand management planner until her retirement in 2022. The longtime cycling advocate also believes updating street designs could make the downtown experience better for people.

“There was, I guess, a bit too much focus on the vehicle and how it moves around and not enough understanding about how that can impact how other people are moving around who aren’t in a car,” she said. “And also the ambience that it creates in an area.”

Sauvé says drivers would adjust to any changes made in the downtown core.

“I have seen studies and they show that usually people find the way that’s the fastest for where they want to go, so that might change with Water and George streets being one-way to two-way,” she said. “Or it might improve because you don’t have to go around the one-ways.”

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