To The McGregor Bay Associate Board:

I am writing in response to the installation of “slow” signs in Copper Mine Channel, Blasted Rock and Ragged Rock Channel.  We have observed a visceral reaction to the signs from a large number of people which teaches us that something is wrong. 

There are two issues at play here:

1: Are the installed sign in keeping with the aesthetic values of our members and friends.

2: Are the signs warranted, are they in the correct location and will they produce safety benefits?

Regarding item one, most will agree that the signs are obtrusive.  Many argue that the way the signs have been placed contravene our mission statement --“To protect and enhance the environment of McGregor Bay, to encourage and promote the respectful enjoyment of its unique natural setting, and to represent the interests of all of its residents and other stakeholders.”

There is no question that we can make improvements on the aesthetic front.  Would it not be better to use signed navigational buoys?  This is the normal way of doing things when it comes to marine safety.  No permanent damage would be done to the landscape and the Board has flexibility in deciding how long they should remain in place during a given season.

The second item is a much more complex issue.  Safety is relative and not absolute.  My expertise happens to be in transportation safety.  Until my retirement last year, I was Director of Vehicle Safety Analytics at the University of Michigan.  In that role I advised the Federal Government on vehicle safety matters and provided technical evidence and research results to support public policy and regulatory decisions.  I am presently a consult to various auto manufacturers, AAA, and other bodies and I sit on a number of National Academy of Science committees with a view to safety.  It is with this background that the following comments are made.

When examining safety concerns, there is a standard protocol that is followed.  The key questions are: 

A.      Is a particular safety concern real and does the data support the opinion?

B.      What countermeasures might be appropriate?

C.      Will the countermeasures be effective?

D.      Does a cost benefit analysis support action?

E.       What might the unintended consequences be of a particular countermeasure?

Consider point A – everyone would probably agree that the south end entrance to Coppermine is a high risk location.  It is easy to understand that it would be seen as a good location for a sign.  But will it be effective (point C).  There is an argument that choke points like Coppermine are inherently safe because people understand the risk and for the most part act with heightened caution.  In road design it would be the equivalent of a traffic calming feature used in place of signs (more effective).  Such conditions can make signs redundant.  It is safe to say that those who do not respect choke points will not likely respect signs.

Regarding the magnitude of the safety problem, I am uncertain about our boat safety record in McGregor Bay.  How many serious accidents have we had?  What were the circumstances? Where did they occur.  Are accidents randomly dispersed or are they occurring in the same location?  Are they increasing in frequency?  Would “Slow” signs have prevented the incidents?

Take for example the reference to a pregnant woman being tossed out of a boat.  Understanding what actually happened will be instructive.  Was her boat in a collision with another boat? Or was she tossed out because of the wake from a boat?  What kind of watercraft was she in? Did the accident occur at a choke point, in a channel or elsewhere?  Did it occur where signs are presently located?  Would a “Slow” sign have changed the outcome?

The message is that accidents that are used to justify action need to be relevant to the proposed countermeasure.  For example, being ejected from cars during crashes is related to seatbelt use and not vehicle speed.

Now let’s explore point E “unintended consequences” – As we all know slow moving boats can throw up very big wakes and many boaters are oblivious to this.  They slow down to be kind but forget that they are casting a large wake.  This obviously puts others at risk.  So depending on what we are trying to achieve will affect our signage.  “Slow” is intended to reduce the risk of crashes while “no wake” will reduce the risk of swamping.

So we can see that risks exist on all fronts and safety is not absolute.  And yes there are risks even if we put up signs. 

After thinking about this as objectively as I can, and absent of any new information and data that might be out there (anecdotes are not data) the safety case for signs exists but based on the evidence available the case is far from compelling.  Furthermore, “Slow” signs have potential for unintended consequences that have their own safety risk.

Clearly it is the responsibility of the Board to weigh these matters and affect solutions that are justifiable to not only its members but to all users of this very special place.  To that end I would like to put my hand up to volunteer my time to help provide some technical support, expertise and input to help the Board find a practical resolution to this problem that can be more generally accepted by all.  

John Woodrooffe

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Comment by Lyn Starke on October 21, 2016 at 10:18am

The number 573 represents the McGregor Bay Regular members, their spouses, their families and extended members. It may be true that while not everyone has a vote, on the MBA site, members and family are welcomed.

Comment by Gillian Woodrooffe on October 21, 2016 at 9:45am

With all due respect to Lyn Starke, after checking my latest version (March 2016) of our membership data base, there is a total of 327 members, of which 170 are "regular" members, which means they have voting privileges. I know this is not a completely accurate number as there are always small changes every year, but I doubt there are 246 new members since March,though I may be wrong.  

Maybe the 573 number represents those who have signed onto the McGregorBayAssociation website?

Comment by Adrian Frazier on October 21, 2016 at 7:22am

That's a sensible and careful response, Lyn.  Doubtless, some people will weight the safety issue more heavily than the issue of the beauty of the place.  We just need to find a way to satisfy both sides. We needn't injure one side to please the other.  Legitimate concerns about boat safety need to be addressed; and so do the feelings of those who find the intrusion of 'Slow' signs painful.  It shouldn't be that hard.  We're neighbours.  We're all custodians of the place.  We all love it, and love being there.

Comment by Lyn Starke on October 20, 2016 at 8:40pm

I am writing in direct response to John Woodroofe's letter to the McGregor Bay Association Board.

Please do not mistake my own personal response for that of the MBA, though I am indeed a board member, I can only express my own thoughts on this matter.

We have observed a reaction to the installation of signs in McGregor Bay, though calling the number “large” would be exaggerating. The MBA member posts are a small percentage compared to total on the mailing list of MBA members and their families. (573 at the present time.)

1: I honestly doubt anyone likes the signs aesthetically; however, I dislike the need for them even more. They measure 15"x 30".

2: The signs are in the three choke points where multiple near misses have occurred.

The signs are in keeping with the mission statement....”encourage and promote the RESPECTFUL enjoyment...of ALL.”

Signed navigational buoys are not only prohibitively expensive, but fall under more complex regulations. One of the unintended consequences of navigational buoys might be creating an additional obstacle in the channels. The practical consideration would be the problem of anchoring them securely.

John said “There is an argument that choke points like Coppermine are inherently safe because people understand the risk and, for the most part, act with heightened caution.”

Really? “Inherently safe? People understand? For the most part?” I disagree with this “argument.” Apparently, people do NOT understand the risk, or the complaints of reckless boaters and near misses would cease and installation of signs would not have become necessary.

In road design, a sharp or blind corner may be indeed be calming. In a narrow channel, boaters should slow down. Those who do not respect the choke points, may not respect the signs, but, I'm certain it is safe to say, the signs are much more difficult to hit compared to buoys.

Regarding the magnitude of the problem, near misses have occurred in those three channels for years. I have heard many complaints from members, and have experienced near misses myself. Would slow signs have prevented the accidents? Who knows, can you retroactively predict such a thing? Who in McGregor Bay will be the arbiter to measure the severity of accidents? Are you willing to sacrifice your granddaughter or mine? Would this be a good time to point out that the remote nature of the Bay also makes it difficult to access emergency services in case of an accident? Who are you going to call? How long before help arrives?

The argument for “slow” signs versus “no wake” signs...Transport Canada regulations view these differently. “Slow” is informational, “no wake” is regulatory. It is like the difference between a school zone sign and a stop sign. I would think by now, boaters are aware that they are liable for damage caused by their wakes.

I am willing to listen to the concerns of the membership and others in McGregor Bay. There have been articles in the Newsletter in regards to boating safety going back to 2008; safety discussions are also included in MBA minutes available on the website. Many of the alternate ideas suggested can also be implemented. None of the other suggestions I've heard would reach the 100% of the irresponsible, ignorant, arrogant, intoxicated, or inexperienced boaters who may or may not be MBA members, visitors or transients.

I personally appreciate your offer to volunteer and provide input towards resolution of the safety problem that necessitated the signs. Thankfully, not everyone is critical without offering assistance.


Lyn Starke

Comment by Lauderback, Karin & Stephen on October 19, 2016 at 8:30am

Well said John and thank you for volunteering your expertise. 

Comment by McDonald, Bryan on October 17, 2016 at 11:40pm
Comment by Peter Hansen Marie Tapert on October 17, 2016 at 10:13pm
Thanks for this John.
Comment by Adrian Frazier on October 17, 2016 at 11:59am

Well said.


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