You may relate to this. In a Delta neighbourhood there is a  residential street that  is the shortest distance between two arterial roads, favoured by GPS apps, tradesmen and taxis and is a block shorter for arterial short-cutting  cars.There are no sidewalks, no indication that pedestrians are walking on the street which includes a blind corner on a hill with no pedestrian clearance. At 50 kilometers per hour the inevitable has happened, with high traffic volumes and speeds resulting in the killing of a neighbour’s dog, one transmission gutted on a front lawn and cars ending up in neighbours’ yards and through their hedges. Add in a few nearby “golf” communities where older seniors drive to services in their garaged polished cars at speed through this  residential street to get to an arterial. The fact it is a residential local  street and that short cutting should not be happening is not of interest to the GPS apps or drivers, and puts local walkers and cyclists  at risk.
Kudos to  Leonia New Jersey (across the Hudson River from New York City)  which realized that these “alternative routes” don’t just manifest themselves in driver behaviour, but are also suggested by services like Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps. As the New York Times  notes these apps have resulted in traffic-choked towns where people have been circumventing traffic and choosing shorter routes due to GPS services.  And Leonia  has had enough: “In mid-January, the borough’s police force will close 60 streets to all drivers aside from residents and people employed in the borough during the morning and afternoon rush periods, effectively taking most of the town out of circulation for the popular traffic apps — and for everyone else, for that matter.”
“Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps,” said Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief. “In the morning, if I sign onto my Waze account, I find there are 250,000 ‘Wazers’ in the area. When the primary roads become congested, it directs vehicles into Leonia and pushes them onto secondary and tertiary roads. We have had days when people can’t get out of their driveways.”
The Waze app uses crowd sourcing to update its information which has resulted in some neighbourhoods “fabricating accidents” to stop the flow of motorists using the app. While defending the app’s right to reroute vehicles from congested roads to residential streets, Waze also says it “shares free traffic data with municipal planners nationwide”, as if the good of more vehicle planning outweighs the rights of residents to the safe and comfortable use of their street. Indeed Waze says that if a road is “private” it will not be used by the app. How many “private streets” in your community?
Unlike other communities that have installed turn restrictions and speed humps, Leonia’s approach has been proactive against congestion and short cutting caused by apps. Residents will be issued special tags for their cars, and other users of the street will be fined $200 in the rush hours. The police department has notified the major traffic and navigation apps of the changes and fully intends to enforce local use of their streets. While other elements like traffic barriers or street closures are the more preferential way to keep traffic out, the approach taken is a policing one.  As the Chief of Police of Leonia says “It’s basically all or nothing . It’s a very extreme measure for very extreme traffic. Would I prefer not to do this? Of course. But I would rather try something and fail than not try anything.”


  1. This technological reinforcement of “freeing” traffic from the shackles of congestion by fostering a mass invasion of neighbourhoods indicates just how embedded car dependency has become.
    I wonder how many drivers in the invaded neighbourhood have the same app in their own cars, and think nothing of doing the same in other communities?
    The entire culture is now wedded to phenomena like this. Fighting climate change by urbanizing the suburbs with transit and better urban design will have to assume similar levels of “cool” app technology on top of offering superior mobility options to the major job centres. That’s a tall mountain to climb.
    The entire effort will not be cheap, and will likely have to fight the ingrained mass pro-car psychology for funding. The advent of autonomous EVs will not change that, nor will it change the monstrous amount of public resources devoted to roads. This thought tends to depress optimists like me.

  2. To answer your question Alex; all of them. Just about everyone now has a smart phone and that means they have access to Google Maps, which also guides traffic to clearer side roads during congested periods.
    I noticed this on a recent trip in California. Google on my ‘phone was telling me I should get off the arterial and divert into a ‘burb. I resisted until a closer look showed why. The road ahead was highlighted in congestion red. The alternate flowed smoothly while parallel to the arterial.
    Less congestion. Ergo, less pollution, buses able to keep their schedule, business people able to keep their schedules, workers getting to work on time and getting back home earlier, deliveries arriving on time, travelers able to catch their flights, those going to a doctor or a dentist able to arrive on time – and less stress for everyone. No big deal except a bit more traffic on the side streets. A win for all.

    1. “No big deal except a bit more traffic on the side streets. ”
      A recipe for even more dead children and seniors if the speeding rat-runners in my neighbourhood are an example of the care and caution we can expect from Google-directed short-cutters.

  3. In other words, the rat-runners should be allowed to invade neighbourhood streets without regard to safety in the name of climate change and the economy.
    Some of us, Edwin, live in walkable neighbourhoods and prefer to keep them that way without commuters from obviously unwalkable far away communities overwhelming smaller local streets that were never meant to compete with arterials. Dwellers of exurbia would never accept such off-arterial traffic volumes on their cul-de-sacs; why should they feel they have the right to impose it on others?
    There are well-justified reasons why inner city neighbourhoods regularly call for traffic calming measures. And there already is a solution to improve motorized mobility: Devote more road space to pedestrians, bikes and transit, therein alleviating more road space and improving travel times for commercial vehicles. Another solution would be longer term: Urbanize the suburbs in part to bring jobs and homes closer together and to minimize the absolutely stratospheric waste of resources and energy spent transporting single individuals in a 2,000 kg metal jacket.

    1. Oh yes. All of the above, except the NIMBY bits. Gated communities and Country Clubs are increasingly popular and you are right, those people don’t want or allow trough traffic. The rest, meh.

      1. Edwin, I have two questions for you:
        Would you consider the West End to be a gated community? It is certainly traffic-calmed. Hardly a place where drivers can get around traffic on the arterials.
        Also, if forced to choose, what would you consider your top priority: Better traffic flow or human lives? I understand you may not see the choice that way, but please set that aside and consider these two. Which is more important to you? And if it can be demonstratively proven that these apps are endangering human lives, would you change your position?

        1. Efficient and quick passages for emergency vehicles are critical in saving property and lives. This we know to be a fact.
          As roads are closed off through either resident demands to thwart and divert, so called ‘invaders’, or engineers deciding to restrict traffic to one chosen road rather than others, or gates positioned barring entrance to any other than residents, then increased congestion is likely due to population growth being faster than transit growth and dwelling locations being increasingly dispersed.
          As I said earlier; this congestion causes stress, impedes productivity and generates air pollution, etc. Better traffic flow. Better human health. Better human lives.
          Children on foot almost certainly will on occasion meet with tragic circumstances in collisions with all types of vehicles. Some will die in crashes of airplanes and sinking of boats. Life will go on.
          The new apps and the capability of live traffic alerts and guidance’s on portable digital maps will not be banned. Google is not going to downgrade their maps capability and eliminate the traffic component. If anything Google’s incorporation of Emergency Management into it’s mapping data set is increasing with governments and agencies combing with layers.

        2. Excellent information. Thank you.
          It certainly raises an ironic question or two to Tessa about “human lives”.

        3. To put driver convenience ahead of human lives and quiet neighbourhoods is totally unacceptable. It is attitudes like this which cause the death and injury toll in crashes to stay at unacceptably high levels.
          Why don’t we work hard toward making our roads safer while reducing congestion and providing people with safe and convenient mobility choices? I can think of lots of ways to make this happen including:
          – creating dense walkable and cyclable commiunities with excellent transit service
          – create complete cycling networks throughout Metro Vancouver
          – reduce speed limits to 30km/hr in residential areas and hire encough enforcement officers to show we are serious about this.
          – improve transit throughtout the region
          – implement recommendations in the BC Road Safety Strategy.
          I could go on and on. All of these are recommendations in government documents. Why can’t we move forward on these items? Allowing motorists to contihue the slaughter by short-curring though our neighbourhoods is not a solution. Let’s work toward vision zero – no more deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

    2. My walkable neighbourhood is not a gated community. But it is quite overridden with traffic using it as a bypass to two arterials. I don’t know of any gated communities in Metro Vancouver, so I assume you live elsewhere or are speaking rhetorically.

      1. The street closures ‘mini parks started in the 70’s and were installed because of wall to wall rat running traffic trying to get to the lions gate bridge. They solved the problem in the neighbourhood and traffic over the bridge did not go down

  4. Charles St betweem Nanaimo and Renfrew used to be a speedway until they put in traffic islands. It’s more civilized now though there are still lots of rat-runners. That whole area of Grandview has had a lot of traffic calming measures. It has turned into a maze and commuters (the dirtiest word in transportation) have been thwarted.
    Wall St was horrendous before traffic islands. Mad Maxers would speed to and from the Ironworkers. Now, it’s a glorious place to walk and cycle with lots of mini parks to sit and enjoy the view. It’s tourist-worthy. More interesting than that stupid steam clock; more worthwhile than Granville Island imho. The birthplace of Vancouver.
    It used to be even more interesting before post 911 hysteria when you could walk across the railway bridge and along the waterfront by the Cannery Restaurant. It was so beautiful there. Used to be able to cycle from there all the way downtown. It’s a loss of our commons.

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