Bristol is moving quickly to establish a safer speed limit over much of the city, while Hamilton insists on a five-year pilot in the North End before considering any other reductions.
By Ryan McGreal
Published January 10, 2014
The City of Bristol, a municipality of around 430,000 in southwest England, has officially started to establish a 32 km/h (20 mph) speed limit across several large areas. The new limits will be implemented in six phases between now and March 2015.
According to George Ferguson, the mayor of Bristol, "The pilot areas in Bedminster and East Bristol have shown that reduced speed limits can and do improve pedestrian and cycle safety, reduce the negative impact of anti-social speeding to our communities and support people to become more active, through increased cycling and walking."
The City introduced two pilot projects in May and October 2010, published the results of their study [PDF] in March 2012, and voted to roll out the lower speed limit more widely in July 2012. The first phase of the full rollout starts on January 20, 2014.
They've launched a website to explain and promote the plan, noting that residents of the two pilot areas overwhelmingly (89%) supported the lower speed limit after it was introduced.
The 32 km/h speed limit is not chosen at random. According to a 1997 British Department of Transport report titled Killing Speed and Saving Lives, a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle has a 5 percent chance of dying if the vehicle is moving at 32 km/h. At 48 km/h (30 mph) the risk of death jumps to 45 percent, and at 64 km/h (50 mph) the risk of death jumps to a staggering 85 percent.
The City of Hamilton recently established a 30 km/h speed limit on most North End streets, with the exception of James Street North and Burlington Street. This summer, City workers installed 30 km/h speed limit signs, painted zebra crossings and installed curb bumpouts to slow traffic.
North End curb bumpouts (RTH file photo)
This is an encouraging development for Hamilton, but for one nagging problem: when our Council approved the North End traffic plan, one condition was to impose a five-year moratorium on allowing any other neighbourhoods to ask for a 30 km/h speed limit as well.
Assuming Council is ever prepared to let other neighbourhoods establish evidence-based safe speed limits, it will be at least five years before Councillors even consider such a request.
Two years was enough for Bristol to determine that a lower speed limit improves safety and quality of life enough to warrant a major rollout over the city. Why does Hamilton need to wait five?
If neighbourhood traffic calming is a good idea - and it has been proven successful in every city that has tried it - we should be moving as quickly as is prudent to give other neighbourhoods the tools to make their streets safer as well.
It is wonderful that the North End has defined itself as a "family-friendly" neighbourhood. It's a powerful statement about the importance of making our city a place where people are welcome, including children.
But every city neighbourhood should have an equal opportunity to define itself as a family-friendly place to live. Do do less is to denigrate the city's vision, which includes being "the best place in Canada to raise a child".
Council needs to do the right thing, lift the ridiculous five-year moratorium and allow other neighbourhoods to move quickly toward a similar 30 km/h speed limit if and when the evidence indicates that the North End speed limit is working.
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