Traffic calming at a very large scale

Councillor Hobbs from Kitchissippi is putting forward a long-verdue motion to transportation committee for the city to have a 40kmh speed limit. While this is referred to as a residential speed limit, I’m not sure if it would apply to local busy streets like Bronson or Scott which have 50kmh limits.

I must say I am quite opposed to this universal 40kmh speed limit.

Yup, opposed.

Note, this is sarcasm.

Not because it is too slow, but because it is still wa-a-a-a-y too fast.

There is a world-wide movement to stop the total domination of public space by motorists. One group is called Twenty is Plenty (20 refers to mph, so the equivalent is 30kmh but without the catchy phrase). People can survive 30kmh collisons with cars. High speeds kill. They alienate motorists from their environment, which leads to higher speeds and more detachment and more reckless driving.

The traditional traffic engineering solutions – more lighting, wider roads, more lanes, more signs — simply don’t work because they encourage motorists to go faster. Driving while frustrated is not a recipe for successful livable cities.

So, I’m OK with 40 on the Scott Streets, Richmond Road west of Roosevelt, maybe even Bronson or Carling, for now. These exceptional streets would be the privileged ones for motorists. But every traditional mainstreet and residential street should be 30kmh.

And it needs to be enforced, by policing, peer pressure, and better road design that encourages slower traffic with motorists engaged in driving. This story explains how the 30kmh zones elsewhere are expanding from select small areas to become city wide:

The internet abounds with similar stories.

And, as a side benefit, slower car traffic means we won’t need special cycling facilities like the Laurier separated bike lanes (SBL) all over the place, because motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists will co-exist. And the experience in The Netherlands is that once the speed advantage is removed from cars, more and more people are happy to walk or bike. Amazing.


Here is the substance of Hobb’s motion to Transportation Committee. You might want to email your councillor with a note of support. It is good first step, but only a first step:

1)       The City of Gatineau has done it [as have many other cities worldwide, lowering speed limits is almost a trend -ed]

2)      Kitchissippi Community Associations are asking – if Gatineau can do it, why not Ottawa?   I had a recent ward council community association meeting and on all 10 of my community association lists –  traffic  and traffic speeds were the number one issues in their catchment area.

3)      At a community AGM last week there are 6 streets planning petitions on individual residential streets in their neighbourhoods in order to reduce speeds to 40km.   This is only one neighbourhood.  I already have a number of other streets that have implemented 40km or that are planning to do so.   This gives the perception that the community is starting to drive the initiative to protect their streets rather than the City being pro-active in dealing with traffic complaints and pedestrian concerns.  Neighbourhood groups that extend beyond ward boundaries are setting up pedestrian summits and forming into activist groups.  We need to get out in front of this with a big solution.

4)      Implementing 40km residential street by residential street  may result in increased costs in administering petitions and placing speed signs, where no signs would be necessary if a citywide 40km was in place.

5)      I have purchased one radar board and data collection device, and it is employed full time on residential roads to monitor speeds and volume.  This is expensive – setting up brackets and having staff constantly deployed to deal with issues in Kitchissippi neighbourhoods.  It has been in full time use since I bought it last year.

6)      There are inconsistencies in speed limits on residential roads throughout the city.  For example Meadowlands is 40km, and it is actually a collector.  This was in place prior to amalgamation, but remains today and causes citizens in Kitchissippi to ask “why not us?”.  So it would be a move towards a more consistent policy on all residential roads (except school zones and special cases where lower speeds of 30km are used) throughout Ottawa.

7)      As we build a more compact, dense City, we need to move towards policies that increase livability.  We need to encourage more pedestrian friendly and people oriented streets.

8)      The cost of implementing ATM measures is a concern.  We have $2.5M citywide for the next three years.  I have just been through an intensive exercise with City Staff to cut out more than $2M of outstanding requests from Kitchissippi Ward so we can focus on the most needed solutions with the limited dollars available.  But even with removing this $2 million worth of speed bumps, intersection narrowings, etc. I am still at almost $1 million with required and recommended speed measures left to do.  The requests for speed bumps, intersection narrowings, etc. to deal with speed is not expected to dwindle as intensification continues.

9)      I think we need to be more proactive and innovative as a City.  To look to our neighbourhood sustainability program to pick up the slack with innovation if we cannot afford to implement the physical measures to slow traffic and/or make our streets more pedestrian friendly.  Many communities don’t even want the signs or the speed bumps, yet they are frustrated with the speeds and volumes of traffic.  I am looking to implement a few pilot projects in Kitchissippi with the future goal of having a complete toolkit in Ottawa that provides layers of solutions for the community available by permit application that they can do themselves.  These initiatives would be community driven, (providing automatic buy-in as a result) and should be much less costly for the City.  For example I am pursuing a pilot project to paint a pedestrian segregated lane on a street that wants their sidewalk continued from where it stops today, but it won’t be on the City’s radar in the next 10 years and maybe longer to build one. Kids have to walk on the road anyway, so why not paint them and other pedestrians a lane?  I am also looking for a pilot to have intersection painting permits within the residential area of McKellar Heights, to give the visual clue that this isn’t a freeway, but rather a residential road.

My goal is to write this motion for staff to explore the feasibility of 40km on all Ottawa residential roads to be introduced at Transportation Committee.  I would be very pleased to have your support.



Katherine Hobbs

Councillor/Conseillère – Kitchissippi

4 thoughts on “Traffic calming at a very large scale

  1. People often speed on the dead end side of Pamilla. I found most visitors to the Preston Street area still have not grasped that the neighbourhood is changing and families do live here.

  2. Eric,

    Do you have any idea when this is going to Transportation Committee? I notice that their next scheduled meeting is April 4th but can’t seem to find an agenda online.

    Would be nice to know, as our CA has been discussing this and I’d like to get a few near east end CAs behind this in order to encourage Councillors Fleury and Clarke to support.


  3. No I don’t. I must confess this was a very quick blog post; I used a copy of the Hobb’s letter sent to me by someone else. You might want to check with Hobbs directly.

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