Deliberations on potential changes to the default speed limit on residential streets with no posted limit will continue at Queen’s Park this spring.
The province has been considering the options of lowering the limit from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour since January, following Ottawa Centre MPP and Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi’s efforts to lower limits last fall.
According to a recent news release from the Ministry of Transportation, options include maintaining the current limit, bringing the limit down to 40 km/h on residential streets across the province, or giving municipalities the power to choose, either by lowering it to 40 km/h or setting their own lower limits, as long as signs are posted.
Currently, communities that want to lower the default limit on streets in their area need to petition the city for a new bylaw.
Naqvi calls this is a “tedious” and “costly” process and says a new approach is necessary.
“My priority is seeing speed limits reduced from 50 to 40 km/h so that our focus can move to enforcement and education,” says Naqvi, adding that a 2012 Ontario coroner’s report recommended these changes at the time.
The report in question called for the lowering of residential speed limits from 50 to 40 km/h after finding that 67 per cent of pedestrian deaths happened on roads with a speed limit greater than 50 km/h, and only five per cent on roads less than 50 km/h.
“Studies show that even a reduction of 10 km/h in the speed limit can significantly reduce the impact of collisions,” says Naqvi. “I think this has the potential to save lives.”
Thomas McVeigh, president of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, says speed limits were an important topic at the association’s monthly board meeting on March 17.
“I’m hugely supportive of lowering the speed limit in urban areas. I don’t think anyone really wants cars going down the street their kids are playing on at 50 km/h,” says McVeigh.
Not everyone from the area thinks lowering the default limit will make a difference, however.
Centretown resident Andrew Morega says it’s main streets such as Bronson Avenue, with a posted limit of 70 km/h, that have a speed problem, not residential streets.
The city attempted to address this issue in 2012 when speed radars were installed on Bronson Avenue, following the death of cyclist Krista Johnson, 27, who was struck by a car. Morega says added speed traps and police presence would be a more effective way of making Centretown streets safer.
“Reckless drivers are already not following the speed limits so they will continue to speed even if the limit is dropped,” says Morega.
“People who are responsible drivers will slow down, but it’s not really them who are the concern.”
Naqvi says Ottawa residents will have an opportunity to weigh in at a community consultation he will be hosting in April.