Winnipeggers will not get to vote on whether they support lowering the default 50 km/h speed limit on residential streets.
Coun. Shawn Nason’s call for the city to hold a plebiscite during the 2022 municipal election, or a mayoral byelection, was rejected by the executive policy committee Wednesday.
Council’s most powerful committee decided to receive the idea as information, which means no action will be taken on it, a decision only Coun. Jeff Browaty opposed.
Mayor Brian Bowman, along with councillors Matt Allard, Scott Gillingham, Cindy Gilroy, Brian Mayes and Sherri Rollins voted not to pursue the change.
Nason argued a plebiscite would be a fair way to seek feedback from all residents before deciding if a major change should take place.
"My (request)… is to engage our community on a question that touches, I believe, every member of this city," Nason told EPC members.
Several Winnipeggers spoke out against a plebiscite at the committee hearing, arguing that lower speed limits would reduce the risk of a serious or fatal injury in a crash, making the matter a safety issue that should be guided by research.
"The issue of safety should not be up for debate... these things should not be in the realm of, nor be swayed by, the public opinion of the day. Instead, decisions on such issues must remain firmly in the hands of those with the knowledge and expertise to make those decisions," said Kira Coulter, who spoke on behalf of the advocacy group Safe Speeds Winnipeg.
Prior to the decision, Rollins argued that letting Winnipeggers vote on the topic would amount to shifting responsibility for what should be a policy decision made by elected officials.
The mayor said he rejected the motion because it would tie city council’s hands and prevent it from taking any action on the file.
"I think city hall needs to be open to the topic of lowering speed limits. We’re doing some policy work right now and I’m looking forward to reviewing that work… I’m trying to be guided by the input of road safety engineers and I’m trying to look at it through that lens," said Bowman.
The mayor noted the city has not decided whether to lower the default speed limit.
In July, council approved a pilot project to test a 30 km/h speed limit on five residential streets in a one-year period. It’s not clear when that will begin.
For many months, advocates have repeatedly lobbied the city to reduce the default residential speed limit to 30 km/h.
However, an online petition against that proposal has gathered almost 9,000 signatures.
Winnipegger Ray Hignell said he’s among those who don’t think a reduced speed limit is justified. He said he’s disappointed the plebiscite won’t occur.
Hignell said he believes crashes that kill pedestrians tend to occur on busier streets, not residential ones, so he’s not convinced a speed limit reduction is warranted.
"This city seems determined to slow down traffic, impede people’s progress and there’s no facts that I have seen... that suggest there really is a problem," he said.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.