City councillor pushing for slower speed limits on residential roads
Story and photo by Jenna Campbell
UPDATE: The report back on lower speed limits from transportation services will now be brought to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in April. The City needs perform further analysis in light of some potential Provincial legislation.
The death of a seven-year-old girl who was struck by a van last July has been the catalyst for city councillors to push forward new safety measures to make Toronto’s streets safer. It has also spurred the community-run Leaside “Kids at Play” signs movement, which has since spread across the city.
Councillor Josh Matlow, (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), is pushing for lowering the speed limit to 30 km/h on all residential roads across Toronto. Lower speed limits would save lives as Toronto’s “Road to Health” report on pedestrian safety recently noted: A pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h has an 85 per cent chance of dying, while a pedestrian struck by a vehicle at 30 km/h has a 5 per cent chance of dying.
Matlow says the intersection of Millwood Road and McRae Drive where Georgia Walsh was killed is close to a playground in Trace Manes Park where his wife and young daughter often visit.
“So both as a city councillor, but importantly also as a father, [Georgia’s death] really had a big impact on me. It deeply saddened me and, I think like any parent, I thought ‘What can we do to make things safer for our kids?’” says Matlow, adding he wanted to come up with some realistic solutions that could be implemented right away.
Former Don Valley West councillor, John Parker, had previously made a request to the North York Community Council to lower the speed limit to 30 km/h in the Leaside neighbourhood on residential roads as well. However his initiative was dissolved, as he was the only incumbent to lose his seat in the October municipal election.
In April 2012, Toronto’s medical officer of health, David McKeown proposed lowering the speed limit on residential roads to 30 km/h from 40 km/h and lower speed limits across the city to 40km/h from 50 km/h. He has continued to promote this initiative as he knows – and a growing chorus of research confirms – this would save lives.
In Mckeown’s Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto reports, faster vehicle speeds increase the risk of death and severity of injury in pedestrians and cyclists who are hit. After 30 km/h zones were introduced in London, England, these zones experienced a 42 per cent reduction in fatalities.
“I have received a very strong support from my colleagues, anyone who has read the medical officer of health’s report gets why I am doing this. The biggest obstacle is that there’s always going to be some people who will consider this controversial and oppose it because they don’t believe that they should be restricted as far as how quickly they drive in our city,” says Matlow.
“But my retort to them would be this, there’s nowhere that you need to be that is worth risking the life of a child in our community or anyone else and if you think that you getting ahead just a little bit quickly is more important than [risking] the life of a pedestrian in our neighbourhoods, then I think that is inherently selfish,” says Matlow.
Photo by Jeff Carson
“Everyone is always worried about the speed of cars on residential roads and so dropping that speed limit is something that really everyone wants in their own area,” says Dylan Reid, a senior editor at Spacing Magazine, and former co-chair of the City’s pedestrian committee.
There will be strong support in council for lowering speed limits on residential roads, but dropping the default speed limit to 40 km/h across the Greater Toronto area would be more difficult to do Reid says.
“You can always find faster roads, that’s not a problem, but if people know that 40 km/h is what you should be driving … that has the potential to save lives across the city.”
Reid notes that there are other traffic calming measures that could be implemented to makes streets safer. Some of which include: bump outs and tighter curb radiuses at corners so drivers don’t turn so quickly and striping on crosswalks to make them more visible. Even with a lower speed limit, if streets are quite wide, drivers will continue to travel fast.
Still, if the speed limit on residential roads is dropped to 30 km/h, it’s a great first step, but there are a lot of individuals who live alongside arterial roads and lowering the default speed limit across Toronto would everyone, Matlow says.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re walking or you’re on your bike, if you get hit by a vehicle going a higher speed, you are more likely to have a serious injury,” says Matlow.
dandyhorse applauds the work of Councillor Matlow and the pedestrian committee at City Hall in their efforts to save lives in Toronto, and we will be watching for the staff report
this month. in April.
Over 50 pedestrians were killed on Toronto’ streets in 2014.
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