by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff
Speeding motor vehicles put pedestrians' lives at risk. That's why Toronto has been actively lowering speed limits to improve safety.
In 2020, speed limits were reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h on nearly 250 km of the city's arterial roads. In May, North York Community Council decided to take the next step, reducing speeds on local roads to 30 km/h. New speed limits on Willowdale's local roads should begin appearing before the end of the year.
Numerous studies have shown that the chances of a pedestrian surviving a collision with a moving vehicle start dropping dramatically once the vehicle's speed rises above 30 km/h. As speeds approach 60 km/h, the chance of survival is almost zero.
As more drivers turn to apps like Google and Waze to guide them through shortcuts on residential streets, speed reductions become increasingly critical. They are also effective. BMC Public Health published a study in 2020 showing that there was a 67% decrease of major or fatal injuries over a three year period for Toronto roads that had speed limits lowered to 30 km/h.
By reducing serious injuries rates, these changes also help encourage more trips made through neighbourhoods on foot or by bicycle. Encouraging these types of travel must remain a priority to fight traffic congestion and climate change.
Of course, speed limits are only as effective as the drivers paying attention to them. Some speeders are easy to reach with simple reminders coming from "Slow Down" lawn signs or Watch Your Speed (WYSP) radar boards.
Unfortunately, the worst speeders tend to require consequences to pay attention. The City's Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) program has been an effective tool, but until they are deployed more broadly, we still need to rely on live enforcement. John has scheduled a meeting with the Superintendent for Traffic Operations at the Toronto Police Service to advocate on this point next week.
The City also uses hard traffic calming tools, from speed humps to traffic islands and chicanes, to ensure that drivers have a physical reminder to slow down. Though these tools also can have a negative impact on residents living on these roads, some Willowdale neighbourhoods are organizing to take a long look at these options, understanding that a street consensus is generally required to move forward.
For more on various traffic calming work ongoing in our office, visit johnfilion.ca/traffic-calming.