Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lower speeds on residential streets rejected

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A city committee decided to put the brakes on a call to reduce speeds on Winnipeg's residential streets.

On Friday, council's public works committee rejected a push to do a further study on the issue.

How bad is that crash?

Medical experts say when a pedestrian gets hit by a car, speed can make a huge difference in the severity of injuries.

  • Injuries sustained in a 50 km/h collision are equivalent to falling from a three-storey building.
  • Injuries sustained from a 75 km/h crash are equivalent to falling from a seven-storey building.
  • Injuries sustained from a 100 km/h crash are equivalent to falling from a 12-storey building. Likelihood of surviving a crash:
  • At 30 km/h, five per cent of pedestrians struck by a vehicle will die.
  • At 40 km/h, 25 per cent of pedestrians struck by a vehicle will die.
  • At 50 km/h, 55 per cent of pedestrians struck by a vehicle will die.

-- source: Putting the Brakes on Speed / Bike to the Future

An administration report released earlier this week examined whether Winnipeg should reduce the residential-street speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h to improve safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

The report said many studies conducted throughout North America have shown driver speed is affected by the road, not speed-limit signs. Other cities that have lowered the speed limit on some residential streets, including Montreal and Edmonton, did not see a significant drop in the average speeds, according to the report. It said some drivers will follow the lower speed limit but others will ignore it, which may increase the potential for collisions between slower and faster drivers.

The report recommended Winnipeg not move ahead with proposed speed-limit changes.

Several councillors said they were disappointed by the report's conclusions. River Heights Coun. John Orlikow said to refuse to calm traffic on residential streets is a "tragic mistake." On Friday, health officials, cycling advocates and politicians told council's public works committee to further review how the city could reduce driver speeds and improve road safety.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority medical officer of health Dr. Sande Harlos said reducing speed is key for lowering the risk of serious injury for pedestrians and cyclists, noting speed is a factor in 25 per cent of all fatal collisions. But Harlos told the committee lowering speed limits alone is not the most effective strategy, and she urged the city to consider combining it with enforcement, public education and other ways to calm traffic.

She said the report did not include statistics from other cities that have seen significant reductions in injuries and fatalities after lowering speed limits, including those in Norway that saw a 45 per cent drop in fatal crashes.

"It's the least we could do," Harlos said of lowering the speed limit in residential areas. "When it comes to the health of the public, we should be doing the best we could do, so I think we could do more than that."

Public works director Brad Sacher said lowering the speed limit to 40 km/h alone will not reduce vehicle speeds, as drivers typically use other factors, such as the number of pedestrians and the width of the road, to determine how fast they should drive.

Sacher said Winnipeg has not had a widespread problem of residential collisions, and the city continues to investigate ways to cut drivers' speeds in problem areas, such as with traffic-calming circles or speed bumps.

The committee decided against further study of the subject and voted against reducing the residential speed limit to 40 km/h. Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said the bulk of reported vehicle collisions occur on regional streets, and he's more concerned about a provincial initiative to raise the speed limit on roadways such as Provencher Boulevard.

Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) initiated the push for lower speeds and said the committee should have consulted the public before voting on the issue. Smith said he plans to meet with Harlos and bring forward another motion on road safety.

"To me, it's just saying status quo and we don't care," he said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM CST: adds fact box

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