Committee puts the brakes on drive to lower speed limit, says question should be part of Vision Zero Strategy

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Ward 2 councillor Keenan Aylwin’s drive to lower speed limits across the city from 50 to 40 kph hit a speed bump at Monday’s general committee, with the general consensus being the matter would be best addressed through the development of a Vision Zero strategy.
The councillor had asked committee to support dealing with the speed reduction in the 2022 business plan process.
“This motion is to have us consider lowering the speed limits across the city by 10 kilometres an hour, and to consider the costs as well at budget time to get a rough estimate from staff regarding (the) cost of replacing signage,” he said.
However, staff had earlier presented rough estimates regarding the cost of replacing speed-limit signs on city streets, with one scenario coming in between $175,000 and $250,000, and another costing $225,000 to $400,000 for all the signs on city streets to be changed.
As committee had earlier adopted a motion to pursue a Vision Zero policy, Ward 8 councillor Jim Harris said a possible reduction in the speed limit might wait for a more broader discussion about overall traffic safety.
“I’m pleased that we passed the Vision Zero. I think that is a real good step to provide a fulsome and comprehensive strategy for (managing the safety of) our streets. I think that’s great,” he said.
“With that noted, I do feel information we received earlier today from staff that answered the question of feasibility, (that) it is feasible for us to do a 10-k reduction, (and) what would it cost … with those two questions answered we have the information that really is requested in the motion.”
Earlier in the meeting, committee approved a motion calling on developmental services department staff to submit an intake form as part of the 2022 business plan and budget process for the development of a Vision Zero policy and a traffic calming policy update.
Vision zero is identified as a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries, while maintaining mobility for residents. At the centre of the vision is a view that people will make mistakes, and road systems should be constructed to recognize and deal with that reality. It is called a fundamentally different way of approaching traffic safety. It was first introduced in Sweden, and has since arrived in many North American cities. Toronto, for example, has a vision zero plan.
Aylwin said his motion to reduce the speed limit “perfectly complements” the Vision Zero approach.
“There is evidence that shows that reduced speed can reduce the likelihood of severe injury or death, especially for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists. At the active transportation and sustainability committee, (when) talking about the Vision Zero strategy, one thing that was noted was that when the City last applied to become a bicycle-friendly community, I think back in 2018, one of the notes on our application, which was denied unfortunately, (was) that out of the municipalities that had applied, we had the highest number of cyclist deaths out of all those cities,” he said.
“That’s troublesome to me and I think this is one change that we can make that gets us towards that Vision Zero, recognizing it’s not a silver bullet by any means, but in my opinion we (should) use every tool in our toolbox.”
While Aylwin’s motion got parked, committee did support an amendment by Harris, that essentially replaced the original motion. It called on staff to review data to determine streets and roads that require improvements to address safety concerns, and to provide a strategy including but not limited to reducing speed limits to address the safety of streets and roads identified in the review.
“Vision zero may take some time … this gives us something to work with now with our residents and staff using the data that we have today … as we wait for a complete Vision Zero strategy,” said Harris.
The City also plans to have an online process for public engagement over issues like a reduction of the speed limit