Signs of the times

Councillor Hobbs hadn’t much support for her proposal to lower the residential speed limit to 40 kmh. In fact, her only supporter was Councillor Holmes. Where were these other councillors who moan about excessive speedy traffic? At the Mayor’s summit, my seatmate was Councillor Deans who gave a great spiel about the futility of wider roads, too-fast-traffic, etc. But not apparently for a 40 kmh limit. Councillor Cherneschenko?

The Civic Hospital neighborhood is organizing to get streets in their neighborhood signed for 40 kmh. Personally, I think they should shoot for 30 kmh. Then add some features to the road that make it advisable and prudent for motorists to actually obey the speed limit. Ottawa’s traffic engineers design residential streets like freeways, with “forgiveness” for excess speed built right in.

Oh, that’s forgiveness for the motorists. Not the hapless pedestrian run over because the sidewalk doubles as a “run off zone” for motorists.

Amongst the items on our discussion was producing official-looking but private speed limit signs that we could mount on lawns and move from street to street. Another idea was to guerilla-stencil the street with our own speed limit.

Communities are organizing to fight for safer limits. Here are some signs of the times.

And for residents of Dalhousie, the DCA Transportation Committee is organizing a pedestrian meeting in early June. The Guest Speaker has the evidence that local ward residents are more at risk from motorists than residents in other wards. More news soon.

And hopefully, more signs of the times.

3 thoughts on “Signs of the times

  1. Real looking, fake signs are a bad idea. People will start ignoring both the real and the fake signs.
    In terms of changing the speed limit, I think lowering the limit on surface streets will only cause more road rage. To me road rage is just as deadly as driving drunk.

    The real solution here is to propose a dual change, where the speed limit on divided highways in increased substantially, and the limits on surface routes in the city are reduced.
    I know from experience driving the Trans-Canada through Ontario that most drivers are content to drive safely and rationally for the 90% of the road that is single lane, knowing that every half hour the road would have a passing lane where drivers who are falling asleep can put their foot down a bit.
    I think the same would happen in the city. Drivers could get their need for speed on the highways on the weekends, and then be generally more calm when commuting during the week.

  2. As an irregular driver through Dalhousie ward I have no idea what the actual speed limit is. I follow the regular flow of the traffic and if there is nobody to take my cue from, I go the speed which seems safe. If you want to slow down traffic with some sort of guerrilla action, instead of making fake speed limit signs, make things look more complicated and dangerous than it actually is.

    Put an orange traffic cone in the middle of the street as if it is marking a pothole.

    Use children’s coloured chalk to make patterns in the middle of the road.

    Park cars along the road that are a couple of feet from the curb with one on either side of the street. That would slow people down to a crawl.

    Place some lumps of mud on the street, like where there is construction traffic coming onto the road. Those can be pretty effective adhoc speed bumps, but there doesn’t have to actually be bumps since people will slow down just in case there are bumps or rocks.

  3. I just want to clarify that when I sent out the note to all Councillor’s that I wanted to look at 40km on residential roads in Ottawa the first person I heard from, and that I received a resounding vote of support from, was Shad Qadri. There were others as well who were immediately supportive, so I do want to be fair. Then there were some that said “no way”. But I also believe , as you are saying, that simply lowering speed limits without layering on other solutions is a problem and can work to create higher levels of non-compliance. I agree with you entirely that when a road looks like it can be driven down quickly, that possibility can and will occur. In general our roads are built wide enough for all types of transport – not just cars, but cyclists and pedestrians too. Unfortunately that width makes them more appealing to the select drivers who take advantage of the open sightlines a wider road allowance provides and drive above the speed limit. I am thrilled that in the current budget process I was able to secure $900,000 of the $2 million available for the next 3 years, for traffic remediation in Kitchissippi Ward. With that we can narrow some intersections and make other needed changes. I am also working with various neighbourhoods on innovative pop-up projects like painting artwork at intersections on the road to slow traffic and other types of ‘cool’ endeavours that will work intuitively to impress on drivers that they are in a RESIDENTIAL area. I am happy to have the City’s newly formed Neighbourhood Sustainability group on board, and working actively on these initiatives to clear permit processes and eliminate red tape for neighbours to try out some new solutions.

    In addition we are piloting a road treatment thus far only done in Europe. The far northern block of Roosevelt will be completely transformed to shrink the intersection and have two traffic pinches that will only allow one car at a time. This is a first in Ottawa, and this block is a great candidate as it is a dead end. Unfortunately many drivers don’t realize that and thus the volume of cars driving down Roosevelt each day, and then racing back to Richmond when they realize they can’t get through to Scott Street, is astounding. Our community is also very lucky to have a TMIP approved which will bring a number of new sidewalks to the Ward and help pedestrians. Churchill is being reconstructed to have separated bike and pedestrian lanes in 2013/14. The public meeting is Thursday May 24 at 7p.m. Dovercourt Rec Centre. All are welcome to come out and have a look at this redesign that will transform the area and open up Churchill to all forms of traffic – safely!

    Kitchissippians are willing to try lots of things to work on the issues we are experiencing with traffic and that is great – many different ideas and suggestions really help! However 40km signs on their own are problematic and expensive. I have been working with the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association as they are spearheading the current impetus to have the streets in their area lowered to 40km. It was my discussions with CHNA that led to my email to my Council colleagues to consider the 40km reduction City wide on residential roads. I am frustrated that residents have to work so hard – going door to door – to protect their neighbourhoods from speeders. And it is frustrating fiscally as well. The cost to the taxpayer of putting signs out on a roadway can be $2000 a street and that adds up. Surely we can get more creative and do something that affects a culture shift – that changes driver behaviour without having to have a police car on every corner.
    Thanks for your blog Eric – I always enjoy reading it!

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