Trending now: governments are raising or lowering speed limits

Lowering speed limits in Cities saves lives (and is one of 4 key actions to increase the number of bicyclists). You’ve probably seen the stunning and scary illustrations of a driver’s field of vision at different speeds that Carlos Felipe Pardo talks about. If not, click here and scroll down to the 4 images in Diagram 2.

While some provincial and state governments, including the BC “Liberals”, have been increasing speed limits on highways (with objections from police), more Cities are adopting goals of #VisionZero (zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries per year) and have reduced speed limits like New York to 25mph in 2014, Toronto to 30kph and Edinburgh to 20mph in 2015, and Seattle to 30mph in 2016.

Quotes from articles in links above:

New York: “I am not going to speed for nobody,” [cabbie Ernst Rodriguez] said.

Toronto: “I hope every driver treats every local neighbourhood street like it’s a street where their kids could be playing,” [Ward 22 councillor Josh] Matlow said.

Edinburgh: The easy-to-love capital city is rrrolling out a plan to cap the speed limit at 20 mph across 80 percent of its rrroads, including the entirety of its dense downtown.

Seattle: SDOT Director Scott Kubly said, “The laws of physics tell us that higher speeds will result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Lower speed limits allow people more time to see each other and react. These changes will significantly help people walking and biking to schools, parks, transit and other destinations. This is especially important since crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists make up five percent of total collisions but nearly 50 percent of fatalities.”

In BC, municipalities cannot lower speed limits on their own without additional costs. They can either ask the BC government to do it for all municipalities or they have to post signs on each block for anything lower than the default of 50kph. If there’s no speed limit posted, assume the default. That’s 2 signs (1 in either direction) on each block. Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna have recently asked the BC government (via UBCM) to lower the default (urban) speed limit to 40kph twice and their request has been denied twice.

The City of Vancouver is concerned about the costs to put up and maintain signs on each block. City engineers also wonder if speed limits are as effective as street design and other methods to calm traffic. (They usually cite the 3 Es to make changes work: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement.)

The City of Victoria decided to act on its own, pay the $90,000 estimated for their first move, and reduce the speed limit from 50 to 40kph on 8 streets plus the Downtown Core.

Should the City of Vancouver be doing more instead of waiting for the BC government to understand the safety and environmental concerns? On the other hand, every time Vancouver adds a greenway or active transportation corridor, the speed limit along it goes to 30kph. Is that enough?

But on the other hand, the main 4 ways to drive to downtown Vancouver (into a dense population of walkers and bicyclists) involve going 60kph over a bridge/viaduct right before entering our downtown. How do we send a message to drivers that they have entered a dense area and need to slow down by 20-30kph or never speed up to 60 before slamming on the brakes to 30?

If a number of streets downtown have synchronized light signals (green the whole way at a certain speed) couldn’t the speed at which to drive through a bunch of green lights be reduced with a little programming?

Discuss. Or better yet, write your MLA and your City Councillors. This is a timely topic at both levels.


Twenty is Plenty – Version 2

Speed limit sign in Glasgow, Scotland 2012. mph, of course. Photo by Tanya Paz.