Simcoe and Conlin, an ‘unsafety zone’

Photo credit: Melanie Lennon

One year after the death of Ontario Tech University student, Rhyss Glenfield, road safety for students at Durham College and Ontario Tech is still in question.

Glenfield was struck and killed while waiting to cross the intersection at Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd. on Nov. 14, 2018.

Read more: UOIT student killed in accident near campus

Don Lovisa, president of Durham College, says road safety is not a new topic around campus.

“When you have a fatality, everybody sits up and pays a little more attention to it,” Lovisa says.

One year later and very little has changed.

The community safety zone around Durham College is not enough to make the area of Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd. safe for students.

On Sept. 5, 2019, two accidents happened at the intersection within hours of each other. The region responded quickly, announcing the next day the stretch of Simcoe St. near Durham College would be a community safety zone.

This band aid solution was also announced on Dec. 28, 2018, following Glenfield’s death.

It obviously did not work.

According to Durham Regional Police Const. George Tudos, there were 28 motor vehicle collisions in the Durham College area between January 2019 and September 2019.

Tudos says other steps have been taken, like posted speed trackers, to try and decrease high speeds and accidents.

“Does it decrease? It’s really hard to say,” says Tudos. “Even if it prevents one injury or one death, I think it’s worth the money.”

A speed tracker is currently installed just north of Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd. The location of this tracker is too close to the intersection for any driver to reduce their speed approaching the campus area.

Not to mention the proximity to the 407 Highway exit, where drivers are already going at high speeds, funneling directly into campus.

“That stretch between Conlin and the 407 has to really hit drivers multiple times, in my mind, with how they need to slow down when they’re coming south off the 407,” says Steven Murphy, president of Ontario Tech University

In some cases, these speed trackers provide the idea to drivers of “how fast can I go?”

“People still speed and get caught literally a block away, people keep going and ignore the signs,” says Tudos.

The area of Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd. is made up of housing, amenities, shops, restaurants, and hundreds of students every day.

“In a five-kilometre radius, within the next four to five years, we’re going to have 29,000 additional people,” says Lovisa.

If the area keeps growing in student population, why isn’t more being done to protect them?

Something as simple as a sidewalk is still not installed at Simcoe St. and Northern Dancer Dr., forcing many students to walk on the shoulder of the busy street.

Another instance where the region is talking the talk, but not walking their walk is the installation of red-light cameras.

Regional council carried a motion to install red-light cameras in community safety zones and school zones on Sept. 25, 2019. None have been installed.

Steven Kemp, manager of traffic engineering and operations for Durham Region, says red-light cameras will “not necessarily help” with traffic issues involving pedestrians and cyclists.

While the solution may be great for other roads, the intersection of Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd. is full of pedestrians, who just happen to be students, at all times of day.

“I would like to see other solutions not only proposed but implemented as well,” says Murphy.

Durham College and Ontario Tech cannot afford to lose any more students to preventable accidents at Simcoe St. and Conlin Rd.

Students should never have to worry about being hit by a car on their way to class.

Durham Region needs to step up and make the changes they promised.