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40 km/h: Coming soon to a residential street near you

October 08, 2009 @ 08:06 By: gordon Category: In the news

The City of Ottawa is poised to approve rules that will allow the speed of a residential street to be automatically lowered to 40 km/h if 60% of the residents on the street agree. According to a story on CBC’s website, this policy will go to city council for final approval on October 28th.

The intent of this is to make residential streets safer by making drivers drive slower. But this is only going to work if there is increased enforcement with less tolerance for drivers exceeding the posted speed limit. Since many police officers give drivers a 10 km/h “cushion” before they issue a ticket a street that has it’s limit lowered is really having it lowered to 50 km/h.

Instead of lowering the limit to 40 km/h, a street that has 60% of its residents agreeing that the limit should be lowered should be subject to aggressive zero-tolerance speed limit enforcement. Be clocked going less than 10 km/h over the limit and receive a written warning the first time, and a fine subsequent times. (Of course, vehicles clocked going more than 10 km/h over should receive a fine on the first offense.)

And it occurs to me that this could have ramifications for bus routes on residential streets that have had the speed limit lowered, particularly for routes that are on many of these streets. The affected routes are going to need to have their schedules adjusted to respect the lower limits, or you’re going to see bus drivers pushing the limits to adhere to their schedules.

2 Responses to “40 km/h: Coming soon to a residential street near you”


  1. Or maybe the 60% who want the lower speed limit should, instead, put their money where their mouths are and put in sidewalks. That way people wouldn’t have to walk in the street and it wouldn’t matter what the speed limit is.

    Personally, I don’t want my limited police dollars going to pay for officers playing nursemaid where cranky curmudgeons are upset that people are going from point A to point B faster than they’d like. We have real criminals to catch, and dangerous drivers (like people running lights and stop signs) to catch.

    Get hit by a car at 40 km (+10 km) per hour and you’ll be just as messed up as getting hit by one at 50 km/h (+10). But by lowering the speed limit, you’ll increase everyone’s travel time by 16-20%, waste a LOT more gas, and cause a lot more pollution.

    • gordon says:

      I wouldn’t have a problem with the 60% paying for the sidewalks, but I suspect that wouldn’t resolve the issue. My point was that lowering the limit is meaningless if it isn’t backed up by enforcement.

      The US tried lowering the speed limits on the interstate highways (remember “55 saves lives”?) and it has since been shown that basically that didn’t really have a positive impact on saving lives or fuel. (IIRC, the real intent was to reduce fuel consumption.)

      If specific streets have speeding complaints, there are existing strategies that can be used ranging from radar speed signs to policing if the speeding problem is found to be chronic.



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