Proposed Policy for Posting 30 km/hr speed: Letter From Friends of Broadview Ave Committee

26 04 2017

Below is a letter from the Friends of Broadview Ave Committee on the city’s proposed policy for posting 30 km/hr speed limits.

Our apologies for the delay in posting this.

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April 4, 2017

Dear Mayor Watson, Councillor Egli, and other members of the Transportation Committee,

It just came to our attention last night that the Transportation Committee will be discussing for approval the draft “Policy for Posting 30 km/hr speed limits” this Wednesday. As we will not be able to attend the meeting with such short notice, we are writing to share with you our concerns with the policy as drafted.

To be clear, we strongly support the introduction of a policy to allow for 30 km/hr speed zones in order to promote a safe and liveable city. We have been advocating for 30 km/hr speed limits in school zones and other areas where vulnerable populations are at risk for several years. This would be consistent with other cities, including across the river in Gatineau.

However, we cannot support this policy for two reasons: 1) the focus on existing road conditions may lead to the exclusion of streets where there are vulnerable populations and a real need for lower speed limits; and 2) the “petition” approach is ineffective since it leads to inconsistencies in application across the city and overall poor neighbourhood planning.

With regard to the first point, we would kindly request answers to the following questions and would suggest that the Committee reflect on these answers before making any decision on the Policy. Specifically:
– How many roads near schools (listed in Document 1 of the background material) will qualify under this proposed policy?
– How many roads with temporary traffic calming measures, identified as priority areas by their respective Councillors, will qualify? (i.e. the traffic calming flags, some of which even say 30 km/hr)

In our neighbourhood, due to the width requirements, it is unclear if Broadview Ave will be eligible even though there are three schools with a total of over 2,500 students on only three blocks. Further, Dovercourt Ave, where hundreds of students walk between the elementary school and Dovercourt Recreation Center, will not qualify since there is transit service (would it really hurt for the bus to slow down for a few blocks?). Both these streets are minor collectors and were not designed for massive through traffic, yet they are absorbing increased traffic, travelling at higher speeds, resulting from intensification in the area.

Our second concern relates to the fact that many of the downtown wards have streets designed in a grid pattern. Given the current default speed limit of 50 km/hr, this policy would now enable two parallel streets with similar characteristics to have a 20 km/hr difference in their speed limits strictly because residents on one street are more vocal and have the time/inclination to collect the necessary signatures. It took the Hintonburg Community Association approximately 1700 hours to get the petitions necessary to ensure a community wide reduction in the speed limit. It is not realistic to expect all neighbourhoods to do this. In fact, by focusing on petitions, this policy provides less protection to communities composed of lower income or new immigrant families as they are less likely to have the means or understand the processes to mobilize and request the change. That is unacceptable.

Further, the “petition approach” can lead to poor neighbour planning and unintentional negative outcomes. As an example, based on the petition approach for 40 km/hr streets, Dovercourt Ave. was converted to 40 km/hr from Sherbourne Ave to Denbury Ave but remained 50 km/hr from Denbury Ave to Churchill Ave since Denbury Ave is the dividing line of the two community associations. Not only was this nonsensical, it was also dangerous since the speed limit increased right in front of an elementary school! Our committee lobbied our previous Councillor for over a year and worked with our current Councillor for 6 months to get this fixed. Can you imagine the number of cases that may arise with potential 20 km/hr difference in speed limits? As individual streets are converted to 30 km/hr, traffic patterns will change and is very likely there will be undesirable consequences. Further, budgets for temporary traffic calming measures, which are already insufficient, will be stretched even further – and possibly directed away from more pressing community needs – to meet the policy’s requirement of reducing the entrance throat of roadways to 7meters. Why have Area Traffic Management Plans if this new policy is going to further encourage a one-off approach?

On a final note, while we understand that the city is waiting for provincial decisions that would allow lower speed limits by default since the costs of putting up signage on every street is prohibitive, our overall question is: does it make sense for the city to prioritize streets to appease “squeaky wheels” or should the city prioritize lower speed limits based on overall community need? We strongly believe it should be the latter. As such, we are writing to ask the Committee not to approve this policy, but instead to develop a new draft based on sound public policy objectives – specifically, the purpose should be to make Ottawa a livable and safe city by ensuring our streets are safe for all users and vulnerable populations in particular. 30 km/hr speed zones should be implemented first and foremost in school zones and other community areas with vulnerable populations and should be introduced in a consistent manner across the city.

Sincerely,

Andy Czajkowski, Gary Larkin and Laura Griggs (co-chairs of the Friends of Broadview Ave Committee)

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