Comments made by GCAT re: Speed Limit Reductions in Guelph
Posted November 22, 2020
Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation wrote the letter below to Dr. Fridman, who is the City of Guelph’s Transportation Safety Specialist. She, along with Steve Anderson, Manager of Transportation engineering, is are in charge of developing the Guelph Community Road Safety Strategy.
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Dear Dr. Fridman:
The Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation (GCAT) is a not for profit organization that seeks to increase the quantity, quality and safety of active transportation in Guelph. For eight years we have acted as the collective advocacy voice for our members and social media followers now numbering in the many hundreds.
We would like to respond to the City’s invitation for comment regarding speed limits. 1. Context:
While GCAT recognizes the importance of speed regulation policy, we also understand that posted speed limits as an isolated measure have little impact on reducing motorists’ speeds. As you know, motorist behaviour and the choices they make are determined by a complex relationship among speed limit policy, enforcement and roadway engineering.
We wish to emphasize the importance of engineering design. It is the big differences among the relative speeds of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists sharing the same physical spaces that are so dangerous. Consequently, we believe that engineering design solutions that provide separate physical infrastructure for each class of road user will yield the best safety outcomes.
Even in cases where roadway space must be shared, we believe that there are many engineering design solutions that can be implemented that will, quite organically, lead to motorists slowing down, thereby reducing differences in relative speeds and achieving good safety outcomes.
2. Speed Limit Reduction:
GCAT supports a general reduction in speed limits on all road classes throughout Guelph.
It almost goes without saying that the science in support of dropping speed limits to 30 km/hr as a means to reduce injuries and fatalities is well established both internationally and domestically. You yourself have authored papers on this subject and we wish to acknowledge your excellent work.
There is also emerging research that shows climate benefits to reducing speed limits, not just on high-speed highways, but on arterial roadways having stoplights.
On residential, non-arterial roadways in particular, which we are certain represent the largest class of Guelph’s roadways, we urge the City to adopt the general maximum speed limit of 30 km/hr.
2. City-Wide Implementation
We believe that a piecemeal approach in which posted speed limits may differ on streets within the same class of roadway, or that change along their length, will be both ineffectual and expensive to implement and enforce. If motorists can learn that, no matter where they are driving in Guelph, the speed limit policy is consistent, surely their compliance will be better.
3. Political Will
We anticipate that, if there is a general reduction in speed limits in Guelph, there will be a vocal and angry reaction from many motorists. Given Guelph’s current transportation modal shares, the volume of this reaction cannot be matched by those who use active forms of transportation.
GCAT believes that if the City adopts policies that redistribute modal share away from the use of private automobiles and toward active forms of transportation it will enjoy many benefits such as:
● Invigorated local economy
● Health and wellbeing of participants
● Improved traffic flow due to fewer private automobiles on the roadways ● Reduced infrastructure costs
● Better use of public space
● Reduced energy use
● Alignment with CEI pathway to net zero carbon by 2050
● Less noise and air pollution
● Increased social interactions among citizens
● Independent children
A seminal, often-replicated study has shown that fully sixty-percent of citizens would consider cycling as a means of transportation if only they could be assured of its safety. Increased safety, then, is critically important in causing a shift in transportation modal shares, and certainly speed limit reduction will play a major role.
A future in which more citizens choose to use active transportation will not happen with huge, revolutionary decisions. Instead, it will happen with incremental steps taken right now by leaders who share our vision of this future and who have the political will to make it happen, particularly in the face of opposition.
GCAT believes that speed limit reduction, together with the other measures in the Community Road Safety Strategy, will improve safety.
4. Next Steps:
We are thankful for having the opportunity to comment on Guelph’s speed limits.
However, we would like to know what more we can do to advocate for lowering them. Would it be possible for members of the GCAT Board to meet with you to discuss our next steps?
Thank you for your service to the community. Yours truly,
Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation