I think its fantastic that the Ontario coroner is urging that residential speed limits be lowered to 30 kilometres an hour. Yet, while that recommendation garnered the majority of the headlines there were many more in the report, some of which I thought would have a far more significant impact on our cities and streets. For example, the report recommends that municipalities consider the introduction of speed reduction strategies that include:
- Reducing the number of travel lanes
- Installing wide parking lanes
- Reducing the width of travel lanes, in concert with the introduction of cycling lanes
- Installing centre medians
- Introducing road diets
- Installing automated traffic enforcement systems which are scientifically validated and strategically located
Each of these measures require removing or narrowing lanes. You only have to look to the recent spat on Jarvis to understand why these recommendations are controversial.
So why is the Ontario coroner recommending that municipalities look at removing or narrowing lanes?
The simple reason is that 75% of all pedestrian fatalities are happening on arterial streets. These are wide streets, with four or more lanes and lots of traffic. Many people live, shop, and walk along these busy streets. One of the few ways to make these streets safer is either make them narrower or reduce speeds.
The report clearly argues that something needs to be done to make arterial streets safer. I do not believe there is an easy solution. There are many players involved, business owners, commuters, residents, politicians, each with competing interests.
However, the one thing I hope we can all agree on is that the status quo is unacceptable. We need to start discussing how make these places safer because too many people are dying on arterial streets.