Around the world municipalities are starting to understand that speed does kill. Merely slowing vehicular speed from 50 km/h to 30 km/h is the difference between a pedestrian having a ten per cent chance of survival in a crash, to a ninety per cent chance of survival. When you think that we live in a country where we nationally subsidize health care, it is a simple no brainer-slow traffic saves lives, and saves health care costs too.
The City of Vancouver has been surprisingly reticent in not directly addressing the pedestrian carnage on Vancouver roads. There is not even a separate pedestrian advisory committee of council, instead those issues are rolled neatly into an appointed active transportation advisory body also charged with cycling. The pedestrian fatality and accident statistics are very upsetting and Price Tags has quoted them before. Last year almost one pedestrian a month died on the streets of the City of Vancouver. Statistics show that most of the dead were seniors. And the majority were correctly crossing the street at a marked intersection. It is just not acceptable in any kind of society, but somehow we see pedestrian deaths as some kind of forgivable disturbance caused by cars. Even the penalties given to drivers that kill by car are surprisingly light, to the sorrow of grieving families.
Despite the carnage the Mayor of Vancouver who champions the Green City model says in a report by the CBC that the city is considering reducing speed limits on more municipal roads, but wants to see what other municipalities are doing. Last year there were no cyclist deaths on Vancouver roads-but there were eleven pedestrian deaths. Surely that is enough to take more decisive action. “We’re watching other cities that are going to 30 kilometres in residential areas,” said Robertson at a media event on Wednesday.” But somehow the Mayor can’t commit to doing the prudent sustainable act of universally lowering speeds on all streets. And in Vancouver, arterials are also residential streets for many people-why can’t we accept the inconvenience of drivers adding a minute or two to a driving trip to save lives of pedestrians travelling more sustainably?
Meanwhile in Toronto Kate Allen of the Toronto Star observes that the Mayor of Montreal has announced “plans for a city-wide reduction of speed limits to be implemented next spring, lowering speed limits to 30 or 40 kilometres per hour on most city streets. The move is modelled after Sweden’s Vision Zero Initiative, aimed at putting an end to traffic fatalities.” And in Toronto itself an Angus Reid Forum poll found that 81 per cent of citizens were willing to trade lower speed limits for safer streets.
That means that four out of every five citizens will accept slower travel times to reduce collisions and save lives. As Toronto Councillor Mike Layton stated “I think people understand what the city is trying to do, and that is create safer streets for everyone that allow for different modes of transportation. We all want to get home safely to our families or to our places of work or school at the end of the day. If it’s a matter of safety over convenience, I think you’ll find that most people agree that we need to make sure our streets are safe.”
And that is what universal slower vehicular speed limits will do.