Lower speed lim­its ben­e­fit ev­ery­one


The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Paul Ber­ton

Speed kills. Speed maims. Speed costs us all. De­spite end­less and ill-con­sid­ered as­ser­tions to the con­trary, it is well doc­u­mented and widely ac­cepted that for the vast ma­jor­ity of ve­hi­cle col­li­sions, speed is a ma­jor fac­tor. It does not re­quire de­bate.

On res­i­den­tial streets and in ur­ban ar­eas, with many in­ter­ac­tions be­tween pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists, parked ve­hi­cles, and at var­ied in­ter­sec­tions, cross streets and driveways, the dan­ger is con­sid­er­ably greater.

On­tario’s chief coroner rec­om­mended the prov­ince lower the de­fault speed limit in cities to 40 km/h from 50 km/h al­most five years ago, but as usual, the leg­is­la­ture works with gla­cial speed. Nonethe­less, a pro­vin­cial move to al­low cities to lower the limit is ex­pected — or hoped for — im­mi­nently. It is well ad­vised and long over­due, given the num­ber of tragic in­juries and deaths. Once passed, Hamil­ton’s traf­fic depart­ment will rec­om­mend a de­fault speed-limit change across the city, and coun­cil should sup­port it.

Af­ter all, there is al­ready a wait­ing list of neigh­bour­hoods across Hamil­ton that have asked for speed limit re­duc­tions. In­deed, the city briefly ran out of signs last year, af­ter 40 km/h signs were posted on 250 streets.

Hun­dreds of other re­quests are pend­ing, and should stay that way, given the money that can be saved when the de­fault be­comes 40 km/h, rendering most signs un­nec­es­sary (al­though some would still be in use in school zones, etc.).

Mean­while, cities across North Amer­ica, in­clud­ing New York, Bos­ton and Seat­tle have also low­ered speed lim­its, as have mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in Ger­many and the United King­dom. We are not in­vent­ing any­thing new here.

Those cities that have been at this for a while in­sist it makes neigh­bour­hoods not just safer, but more walk­a­ble and there­fore liv­able. Cities that are more walk­a­ble are likely to have peo­ple who are health­ier.

It is all part of an in­tri­cate cir­cle that ben­e­fits ev­ery­one.

Still, there will be chal­lenges, first from those who do not ac­cept that speed kills, or that higher speeds in cities cause more ac­ci­dents, cre­ate greater in­juries, cost us all more money and even do greater harm to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Sec­ond, even among those who ac­cept the dan­gers of ex­ces­sive speed, there will be many who in­sist on speed­ing nonethe­less, or are sim­ply un­aware they are speed­ing and pos­ing a dan­ger to them­selves and all those near them.

In fu­ture, ve­hi­cles will no doubt be out­fit­ted with ro­botic alarms to re­mind us of such trans­gres­sions, but un­til then, we should all work more dili­gently to be more re­spect­ful of all road users, pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists, and oth­ers.

Sim­ply driv­ing more slowly is an ex­cel­lent first step.

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