Queen’s Park is looking at ways to curb speed limits in Ontario cities and towns, including lowering the standard from 50 km/h.
In a bid to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca will begin “comprehensive consultations” with municipalities across the province to discuss changes.
That’s a policy U-turn from the Liberals’ position last September when the government said there were “no plans to change the default speed.”
Sources say the province is acting upon the concerns from mayors, reeves, and civic councillors.
“No decision will be made without carefully considering all options and views from all stakeholders from across the province,” a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday.
“We have heard from a number of municipalities — for example, Ottawa —that as urban areas continue to intensify, lower speeds may be appropriate in high pedestrian areas and have requested a change to the default speed limit to enhance pedestrian safety,” the source said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is looking at four options:
- Maintaining the current 50 km/h default speed limit.
- Changing the law to reduce that limit to 40 km/h.
- Allowing municipalities to set a default speed limit either of 50 km/h or 40 km/h within their boundaries and requiring the posting of signs at each entry point of the municipality.
- Permitting municipalities to set different default speed limits inside their boundaries or specific neighbourhoods and forcing them to the post signs at each entry point of the city or neighbourhood.
Del Duca’s consultations will include workshops, questionnaires and webinars for municipal officials this spring.
“Each municipality that participates in these consultations will have the opportunity to comment and provide input into the impacts of the proposed options for default speed limits, area and boundaries of application and how these could be implemented into their communities,” said the insider, adding the Association of Municipalities of Ontario is also expected to take part.
A coroner’s review into pedestrian deaths in 2010 urged the province to allow municipalities to lower the default speed limit to 40 km/h.
Currently, the Highway Traffic Act says the “speed limit on roads within most municipalities and in built-up areas is set at 50 km/h” and for highways – other than through towns and cities – the default is 80 km/h.
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.
The WHO noted that a car going 50 km/h requires 13 metres to stop while one going 40 km/h can stop in less than 8.5 metres.
“An increase in average speed of 1 km/h typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4–5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities,” the organization said.