Published by the Toronto Star – Friday, September 5, 2014
Slow down: Ontario moves to cut speed limits on residential streets
Government expects to introduce an amendment in the fall to drop the limit to 40 km/h from 50 to save lives, minister says
The Ontario government is putting the brakes on speed limits along residential streets across the province.
Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi told Ottawa CBC radio on Friday the Liberal government is expected to table an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act this fall lowering the default speed limit to 40 kilometres per hour from 50.
“Fifty kilometres an hour is too fast,” the Ottawa-Centre MPP told CBC, adding he supports the move to lower the speed limit.
“If you look at some other jurisdictions, like New York City and Paris, you’ll see they’re taking the same initiatives,” Naqvi said. “And I think it will put Ontario in a leadership place in North America by reducing the speed by these 10 kilometres an hour,” he said.
Neither Naqvi nor his office could be reached by the Star for further comment.
Naqvi said in the CBC interview that when he goes door to door “this is an issue that comes up often.”
“You’ve got a lot of young children who play on the street, especially in the summer months.”
“New Democrats are open to ways to improve road safety. As always, we will look closely at any legislation brought forward and consult with police, municipalities, and other stakeholders,” NDP transportation critic Joe Cimino said.
OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said the OPP we would support any initiative “that will continue to ensure that Ontario highways and roadways remain amongst the safest in North America.”
In Toronto, there has been pressure on city council to lower the default speed even lower to 30 km/h on residential streets in some cases.
Toronto’s chief medical officer Dr. David McKeown in 2012 advocated a 30 km/h speed limit on residential streets and “a citywide speed limit of 40 km/h on all other streets” to reduce the severity of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.
McKeown made the proposals upon the release of a $45,000 report, “Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto,” which cited evidence that pedestrians are far less likely to be killed for every 10 km/h reduction below 60 km/h.
“Small increases in traffic speeds results in a disproportionately large increase in pedestrian fatalities,” McKeown wrote.
According to the World Health Organization, almost 50 per cent of pedestrian deaths occur when the car is travelling at 50 km/h. At 80 km/h, the odds of survival are close to nil. But at 30 km/h or slower, more than 90 per cent of those struck make it out alive.
The Star previously reported that reducing deaths is one reason cities such as Paris have put in place, or are pushing for, nearly citywide 30-km/h speed limits. And not only that, say advocates: a 30-km/h limit reduces congestion and energy costs, is environmentally friendly and strengthens a sense of community.
Tory critic MPP Michael Harris said he first wants to see the studies that clearly prove that lowing the speed limit by 10 km/h will saves lives.
“It is important that any changes to the speed limits are based on research and data,” Harris told the Star.
Pat Vinini, executive director for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) said talk of reducing speed limits is news to here.
“I don’t understand what is behind this proposal. Certainly it is not coming from our members,” she said.