30 km/h speed limit? Not so fast
Slowing cars on residential streets gains support, but by how much open to debate
As a call to lower residential speed limits to 30 km/h is scheduled to be debated at city hall this week, the councillor proposing the idea says the issue could be handed back to administration to make recommendations for speed reductions on neighbourhood streets.
Coun. Druh Farrell, who proposed a citywide 30 km/h default speed limit for neighbourhood streets, said there is broad support on council for lowering the limit, but that there may be a desire among some to amend the motion, asking city administration for recommendations “for how to make both residential streets and collector streets safer.”
“There seems to be . . . a clear majority of councillors who want a lower speed limit, so there’s a commitment to a lower speed,” Farrell said. "But the whole discussion around collectors is perhaps more challenging, and so that requires a bit more work.
“We’ve got residential streets, minor collectors and collectors. A lot of the streets that we have a real speeding problem on are minor collectors, and so what do we do with those.
“It might require a little bit more study.”
“I’m really optimistic about the desire to lower speed.”
Debate on the motion was postponed from earlier this month, and is expected to be discussed either Monday or Tuesday.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who backed Farrell’s motion, said he thinks there is “broad support” on council for reducing the default speed limit on residential streets — but the current debate is whether 30 km/h or 40 km/h makes more sense as a safe speed limit.
“The big question that’s going to be before council is whether the majority of council supports lowering the speed limit, and I think there’s support for that,” Carra said Sunday. “And the question will then be, rather than duke it out and not get it right, let’s ask our experts: How do we get this right?”
Carra, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and councillors Jeff Davison, George Chahal, Evan Woolley and Ray Jones are listed as sponsoring councillors on Farrell’s notice of motion, which calls for a citywide 30 km/h residential speed limit, and for city staff to report back with an implementation plan and affected roadways map by the fourth quarter of 2019.
The motion cites World Health Organization research that indicates pedestrians are 90 per cent likely to survive when struck by vehicles travelling at 30 km/h, compared with 60 per cent at 40 km/h and 20 per cent at 50 km/h.
Carra hopes to see city staff look at the possibility of a reduction to 30 km/ h on unlined streets through neighbourhoods, and a default speed limit of 40 km/h on lined streets through communities, unless posted higher.
He said he has received “a lot more support than negativity,” from residents in his ward.
“I think that comports with the fact that every time I talk to anyone
in their neighbourhood, on their doorstep, the aspiration is that cars drive slower,” Carra said.
It hasn’t been the same for Coun. Sean Chu, who said he has received a lot of calls and emails opposing lower speed limits.
“Over 95 per cent of people say no, please don’t do it,” Chu said. “And, yes, there’s some people who say yes, it would be a good idea. A lot of people actually say they don’t mind 40 km/h.”
Chu, who doesn’t support any reduction in the default speed limits, said drivers travel an average of about 40 km/h on neighbourhood streets anyway.
“This is nothing but anti-car ideology,” Chu said. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Coun. Ray Jones said he has also heard a lot of opposition to the proposal from residents in his ward.
“They just feel that there isn’t enforcement on 50, so why would there be enforcement on 30,” Jones said. “They don’t feel that it’s a necessity. They said it’s just common sense that tells people they should slow down in residential areas.”
Jones said while he supports the idea of reducing residential speed limits to 40 km/ h, “maintaining 30 on residential roads is going to be a bit tough.”
Farrell’s motion also calls on the city to add short-term trafficcalming measures at high-priority locations, medium-term updates to street design policies and guidelines, and long-term consistent funding for street safety improvements.
The councillor said speed reduction in neighbourhoods is one of more than 40 recommendations that came before council in the Step Forward pedestrian strategy.
“We’re not naive enough to think that lowering speed is going to accomplish everything that we need to improve safety,” Farrell said. “It’s one tool of many, but it’s probably the cheapest tool, and an important one.”
City council approved the pedestrian strategy, without the speed-reduction measure, in May 2016.
Council will debate whether to lower the speed limit on neighbourhood streets to 30 km/h.