Should Vancouver consider a 30 km/h limit on residential roads? Toronto moves to reduce speed limit

University of Toronto
The Toronto Star reported that members of a downtown community council voted unanimously to approve a new 30 km/h speed limit in the City. Local roads will see speed limits reduced from 40 km/h to 30 km/h. Approximately 387 km of roads will have new speed reductions put in place; the changes will cover a large part of the old City of Toronto (“downtown”) and East York. City crews will start to swap out many of the old speed limit signs starting in the fall of 2015. More details can be found in the article 30 km/h limit set for downtown residential streets (David Rider, Toronto Star, June 22, 2015).

Should the City of Vancouver consider following Toronto’s lead? A number of other cities around the world are in the process of putting in speed reductions, including Paris. The Toronto Star noted that Graz, Austria became the first large European City to implement 30 km/h speed limits back in 1992. The World Health Organization has identified speed “as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries.” A clear linkage between speed and pedestrian safety is noted:

For example, pedestrians have been shown to have a 90% chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h or below, but less than 50% chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/hr.

Slocan Street 30km/h speed limit

Slocan Street has a speed limit of 30 km/h

Could it be possible for Vancouver to reduce speed limits on residential streets? Would it work for the section of the City that is north of 16th Avenue and west of Nanaimo?

The plans for reducing the speed limit have been discussed in Toronto for over 10 years. The recent impetus to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists may have been spurred on by the recent deaths of three cyclists who were killed by motor vehicles. One of the cyclists was renowned architect Roger du Toit, who was struck by a SUV (CBC: Toronto architect, dead after cycling accident).

The reduction in motor vehicle speed limits in Toronto will improve safety for cyclists.

An initiative by cycling activists in Toronto is to implement the idea of creating many new bicycle paths using a “minimum grid” concept. The focus is to concentrate on building many kilometres of bikeways at a low cost, rather than spending a lot of money on building a only few very expensive bikeways. In order to urge politicians to act, cyclists held a ‘die in’ at Toronto City Hall on June 19, 2015. Several photographs of the event are posted on twitter (search #minimumgrid for more):

Lower speed limits and separated bikeways improve safety. Are the City of Vancouver’s policies based on best practices? Or is there room for improvement? Does the allocation of funds for transportation infrastructure accurately reflect a plan “that includes more pedestrians, bikes and buses than cars” and support the statement “that pedestrians are the city’s top priority”?

Slocan Street 30km/h speed limit bikeway
According to the Vancouver Police Department, the “speed limit in any BC municipality is 50 km/h unless otherwise posted.” Slocan Street is a bikeway and has a posted speed limit of 30 km/h.
Slocan Street
Lakewood Drive:
Lakeview Drive

3 thoughts on “Should Vancouver consider a 30 km/h limit on residential roads? Toronto moves to reduce speed limit

  1. Tell you what, how about we lobby for the enforcement of the speed limits we already have FIRST. I’m sure that would save most of the pedestrian lives lost at the moment. I drive 50 kph pretty consistently, that being the speed limit and all, and to watch the traffic around me, you’d think my car was stalled rather than driving, so consistently do other drivers slingshot their cars past me on all sides. If speed limits were consistently enforced throughout the city, the City could earn enough money in a week to build a separated bike route all the way to Chilliwack. I’m a huge fan of photo radar and feel a way should be found to utilize it legally.

    Another thing one might do to reduce pedestrian fatalities without creating a whole new regulatory regime and the accompanying bureaucracy might be to educate pedestrians to take just the teeniest of precautions in pursuit of their own safety, say – looking for cars before stepping onto the street. When I walk, I take as much care as when driving, or cycling. I do 4-direction traffic evaluations and shoulder checks before I enter an intersection, and usually I am the only one in the vicinity doing anything of the sort. I constantly observe pedestrians stepping into the street as if cars were a mere abstraction; an imaginary phenomenon that can’t hurt them. So they can’t be bothered to turn their heads, but the rest of the world has to compromise to accommodate them? That won’t beget a driving population that is more kindly disposed to other road users.

    As for your selection of photos, of Slocan St. above, before asking drivers to slow down for cyclists, it would be a sign of good faith if cyclists were to take enough responsibility to put their helmets on their heads rather than on their handlebars.

    For narrow side streets, or even for peak times in areas of high pedestrian congestion, I have no quarrel with a 30 or 40 kph limit. But for general use this is not reasonable, and would probably increase emissions because it would lengthen every car trip. Nor is it necessary. Autonomous adults and even children at the age they can travel unaccompanied can cope with 50 kph traffic without fatalities in most settings if everyone pays just a bit of attention and follows the rules.

    It’s the people who travel 70 in 50 kph zones who cause the problems; reducing the limit is the equivalent of looking for the key where the light is, not where you dropped it.

  2. “Would it work for the section of the City that is north of 16th Avenue and west of Nanaimo?”

    It already is where I live. Arbutus Village – Valley Drive, Yew Street, W29th all are posted at 30 and have speed bumps. They also part of the cycle network of course. Area wide measures around here would not make much difference as speeds are already controlled by short blocks and 4 way stops, I think.

    My experience is that speeds on the relatively narrow and heavily parked up residential streets are not the problem so much as grossly excessive speeds on the arterial network. No-one seems to think 50 is enough on Granville (between 57th and 16th) Oak or Cambie. The bump outs and improved crossings seem to have tamed Main St but I see no similar effort on the West Side. King Ed is simply a race track. Has anyone else tried to drive across the Burrard Bridge at the posted 50?

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