My notes on decreasing speed limits for Civic Works Committee on May 20, 2015

Most of the time, I will prepare and make notes for meetings.  Sometimes they are quick pencil-and-paper jot notes of points I want to make and I will cross them off as my colleagues speak to them first. Sometimes I will create a more comprehensive speech, which I still use as a guide when speaking.  At the Civic Works Committee, I did skip over some parts as I felt they may have added more details than required, or may not have received warm reception.  Here are my notes as I referenced them yesterday.  I will in the next few days try to clean this up as more of a proper blog post.

 

 

Notes from Civic Works Committee – May 20, 2015 – 1pm

On decreasing Speed limits in school zones

I want to start by thanking our staff for preparing the report that is before us today.  This issue has been raised in the past and has fallen flat.  I’m not sure why.  Actually I have some ideas why, but I hope that this committee is able to see the bigger picture and how this fits into it.

We are really dealing with two issues when we look at decreasing speed limits in school zones. I’m going to start with the micro level issue. We need to increase the sense of safety for pedestrians, especially children around schools.  Over and over the most common thing I heard on doorsteps and at my ward meeting is that speed on streets, especially around schools, is an issue.

In fact, our staff recently conducted a speed study on Viscount Road after hearing repeated concerns from residents.  This Intersection, where children are expected to cross to school every day, had some really interesting results.  Based on the 24 hour volume of 3500 cars, 15% of the vehicles were travelling more than 15 kms OVER the speed limit. 525 cars were travelling at speeds which could kill someone.  That is one car every 3 minutes.  I get it.  It is things like this which leave parents saying it’s not safe for my kids to walk to school

Parents feel that there are too many cars and that safety is an issue.  So they drive these cars.  Do you see the problem here? Most parents are concerned about safety, and a common response is to drive their kids.  This creates more traffic and congestion which decreases safety.  SO where does it end and what role do we have to play? We as a committee and as a council need to implement many strategies which shift the culture for pedestrians.  We are looking at strategies across many areas – we want walkable communities.  We need to consider creating the safe culture for pedestrians around school areas.

I’ve heard some comments about whether or not there is a problem. I can tell you that just recently a child was hit near a Thames Valley school.  These injuries, unless fatalities do not often hit the paper. I can also tell you, that to the parents of a child who has been hit, one injury is one too many.  We have an opportunity to save lives through the support that we give this report today.

Since 2008 there have been 34 collisions within 150 metres of schools.  These numbers are from a review of accidents in school zones was completed by our Roadway Lighting & Traffic Control Division Manager.  There was one fatality, and 32 injuries.  One collision was property damage only.  These are only the collisions, not the near misses which are reported anecdotally on a regular basis.

A London Free Press article dated July 15, 2013 CITES THAT there were 351 collisions in 2012.  200 of these involved pedestrians and 151 involved cyclist.  Over 91% of these collisions caused injuries.

If we go outside of London and look to some Canadian information, I can share that in a SafeKids Canada report with regard to child pedestrian injuries the following key facts and stats are reported:

Child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury related death for Canadian children aged 14 years or younger.

  • Pedestrian-related injuries contribute almost 15 per cent of all injury-related deaths of children younger than 14 years.
  • On average, 30 children pedestrians younger than 14 years old are killed and 2,412 are injured every year.
  • Children aged 10 to 14 years have the highest risk of pedestrian injuries and deaths

The safe kids Canada report on child pedestrian injuries recommends a 3 pronged approach –

1) reduce driver speed (traffic speed to 40/30km/h

2) encourage guided practice to teach pedestrian safety

3) make communities more walkable.

A coroner’s review of pedestrian deaths in 2010 urged the province to allow municipalities to lower the default speed limit to 40 km/h in school zones.

According to the coroner’s review of pedestrian deaths – p11 of the executive summary indicates that 67% of deaths occurred on streets with speeds beyond 50km/h, and only 5% on roads with less than 50km/h.

The coroner makes several recommendations – a complete streets approach, – (p13 – that municipalities consider 30 km/h on residential streets and 40km/h on other unless otherwise posted.)

The World Health Organization has found that pedestrians hit by a car or truck travelling at around 45 km/h have a 50 per cent chance of being killed.

But those struck by a vehicle going 30 km/h or slower have a 90 per cent survival rate.

According to Speed Management: A road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners

Geneva Global Road Safety Partnership 2008 p. 8. Research has been conducted internationally and speed limit reduction research in south Africa, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, new Zealand, the united states and the united kingdom have concluded that when speed limits were reduced, road crashes decreased between 8 and 40 per cent.

The province of BC has a mandatory law of 30km/h in school zones.  Every school, in every municipality.

Guelph has decreased speed limits.

Toronto has decreased speed limits and many small communities have implemented (this lowered speed limit?)

You will have heard the health unit speak about their support for this motion, and I agree with them.  Decreasing speed limits will create a safer way for children to be more active getting to and from school and it must be coupled with other things – such as education and complete streets.

The schools are very interested in supporting this reduction and I have no doubt that they will be encouraging children to get to and from school actively and talk about the benefits of the environment, and the safety, as well as their own health and wellness.  As you may know I have 2 children at home, (who now walk to and from school at ages 6 & 7) and they are very much interested in being active and healthy.

That leads me into the macro level – which I promise will be shorter.

We’ve talked about wanting to create walkable communities.  We know that walkability is a huge factor in strengthening neighbourhoods.  We also know that we are spending millions of dollars each year widening our roads.  We can’t sustain this rate of widening.  WE have the ability, through our policy, to affect and promote change on an entire generation.  The change including the ability to create those active and healthy habits like walking – and walking to school is a first step.

Decreasing speed limits alone will not create the change, I know this, but it is one part of the overall picture.  This partnered with the October In Motion challenge by the Child & Youth Network), the Safe and Active Routes to school by Public Health, the Walking school buses that are gaining popularity in each individual school will assist with the change I, and parents alike, hope to see.

When I reflect on my school days in the early 90’s I remember the implementation of the blue box, and how it was brought into the schools.  Can you imagine that just 20 years ago everything went to our landfill? Now we separate and make environmentally sound choices.

What if we have the ability to change the mindset of how people move about their city for an entire generation?  A group of children who will grow up and use transit (perhaps rapid transit), who will walk and cycle and who will choose not to use a vehicle. It is through this kind of change that we can see decreased costs in road widening and positive long term effects.

I believe that decreasing the speeds in school zones has the potential to increase the sense of safety for parents and children and be the start of a SHIFT in how the next generation gets around the city.  It is just one of the tools in our tool box to effect positive long-term change.

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