By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published October 19, 2012
A September 28 Globe and Mail editorial arguing that lower automobile speed limits allow for more livable neighbourhoods makes a very interesting point:
Speed breaks the calm, and neighbourhoods should be calm. That feeling led London [UK] to set a speed limit of 20 miles an hour (a little more than 30 kmh) in 400 neighbourhood zones since 2001. Research published in the British Medical Journal found a 46 per cent drop in deaths and major injuries in the zones.
Yet here we are in Ontario, debating a law that would mandate bicycle helmets, so cyclists might have a better chance of surviving the crashes made inevitable by the design of our roads!
(And there is no problem interpreting this very straightforward statistic: lower speed limits led to a significant drop in deaths and major injuries.)
Are the limits set for safety for all road users? No, they are set by the speed at which drivers actually want to drive:
"Traditionally, speed limits have been set by traffic engineers using samples of actual speeds and calculating the 85th percentile speed," says the Transportation Association of Canada. Drivers are the last group who should be setting their own limits - as drivers would be the first to admit.