On September 16, 2013, Councillors Joe Cimino and Fabio Belli brought forward a motion to the Operations Committee that asks for a reduction in the speed limit on residential streets. The limit would go down to 40 km/hr from the current 50 km/hr.

Staff have been directed to investigate options to amend the Traffic and Parking by-law 2010-1 to reduce the speed limit unless otherwise posted. These options will be brought back to the Committee in January 2014.

Cyclists need to support this initiative.

We have heard that Roads staff are not in agreement with the change, saying that lowering speed limits aren’t effective (road design and traffic calming is better) and that it would be very costly to implement (replacement of signs across the City).

It is true that the culture in the City is to speed. And that enforcement has been lacking in ensuring drivers adhere to the posted speed limit.

It is also true that our City’s Roads engineers are currently designing most roads to accommodate 60 km/hr speeds and higher. And that they are implementing traffic calming initiatives that are dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists (like Attlee and Southview). The Roads department still caters mainly to cars and are most concerned about getting traffic through the City as quickly as possible.

We need to work on all of those issues. But we also need to start somewhere to show that we are serious about ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists are safe in this City. Coupled with driver education and enforcement, reducing speed limits will be one cost-effective way to prove that we care about our pedestrian and cycling populations.

There are already some initiatives like the Pace Car program on Landsdowne Street that show that our residents want slower and safer speeds. A speeding driver in a residential neighbourhood is an unsafe driver, particularly on streets where there are no sidewalks and where there are pedestrians – especially the elderly and children. (http://www.northernlife.ca/news/localNews/2013/11/18-pace-car-sudbury.aspx)

The impact of lowering the speed limit on cyclists is obvious – it will definitely be safer for cyclists of all ages to travel these streets.

Many of our residential streets are wide, especially in new subdivisions. And they have been designed for higher speeds. Anyone who has attempted to cycle down neighbourhood streets like Auger, Hawthorne, Lansing, Southview – all streets that are significantly newer than those in older neighbourhoods like the Donovan, the Flour Mill, the West End, Downtown, Gatchell – can attest to the speed of vehicles on these streets.

Retrofitting all of the streets that have been designed for higher speeds would be cost-prohibitive. Lowering the speed limit would be a much less costly program.

As per the motion, there are a number of reasons to support this brave action:

  • The City passed a resolution in 2007 to become the most pedestrian friendly City in Ontario by 2015.
  • The City cannot currently afford to provide all of the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure that makes our streets safe for these users.
  • There is clear evidence that physical activity from active transportation generates important health benefits – and we have many, many unhealthy people in Sudbury due to their current lifestyles; making our streets safer would encourage more people to walk.
  • There are precedents for 40 km/hr roads in Sudbury which are not necessarily school or hospital zones.
  • The Ontario Chief Coroner’s Report into Pedestrian Deaths recommends that the Ontario Traffic Act allow municipalities to set the unsigned default speed limit at 40 km/hr on residential streets.
  • Slower streets make for more liveable and safer neighbourhoods – there are still children who play on our residential streets.
  • An increase is speed is directly related both to the likelyhood of a crash occuring and to the severity of the crash consequences to pedestrians – many studies agree that at 40 km/hr, approx. 5% of crashes are fatal; at 50 km/hr, approx. 40% are fatal; at 60 km/hr, approx. 80% are fatal; at speeds over 60 km/hr, close to 100% are fatal.
  • The Sustainable Mobility Plan recommends reducing the speed limit on all residential streets to 40 km/hr.
  • Several other cities, including North Bay, Ottawa (partially), Little Current, and closer to home, Markstay all have 40 km/hr speed limits.

Make your voice heard – call or send an email or letter to your councillor and to the mayor; send a letter to the editor of one of our local newspapers; facebook or tweet your support to our community!

For more info on the motion, see the meeting minutes, starting on page 4: Meeting Minutes.