Lower speed limits benefit everyone
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
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.