City may ask Sudbury drivers to slow down

Report going to city committee next week

Share Adjust Comment Print

The speed demons amongst us will not be happy.

At next week’s meeting of the operations committee, councillors will consider reducing speed limits in Sudbury. The city has been looking at this for a while.

“In 2013, in response to the Ontario chief coroner’s report titled Pedestrian Death Report, staff (members) were asked to investigate options to reduce speed limits on residential roads to 40 km/hour in an effort to improve safety for vulnerable road users,” a staff report notes.

Most thoroughfares in the city are currently 50 km/hour speed zones. There is good evidence to show that reducing speed limits by just 10 km/hour actually makes a significant difference to pedestrians, especially those involved in collisions.

“Studies have shown the operating speed of a vehicle which strikes a vulnerable road user has a direct correlation to the risk of serious injury or death,” the report states. “Toronto’s complete streets guidelines demonstrates that a reduction in vehicle operating speeds from 50 km/hour to 40 km/hour significantly increases the chance of survival for a vulnerable road user from 15 per cent to 70 per cent. This is further increased to 90 per cent for operating speeds of 30 km/hour.”

It would cost millions of dollars to convert all of Sudbury’s roadways to 40 km/hour and maintain the signage. In 2014, staff determined it would cost about $2.5 million, but it would likely be more now.

“In January 2014, staff presented a report to the operations committee … in which it was estimated it would require 9,600 signs to post every local and collector residential roadway with a 40 km/hour speed limit under the old regulation,” the report notes. “At the time, staff estimated the cost to install these 9,600 signs at $2.5 million with an additional $125,000 increase in the yearly sign maintenance budget.”

Instead, staff is recommending reduced speed limits at gateways to local and collector roads.

“In addition, in the event a school zone speed limit of 40 km/hour falls within one of these designated areas, it is recommended that the school zone speed limit be reduced to 30 km/hour,” the report notes.

By reducing the speed limits in school zones, motorists will be reminded there are children around.

“Further reducing school zone speed limits will reinforce to motorists they are entering a school zone and extra caution is needed as they are more likely to encounter young children within the road,” the report states.

By only addressing speed at the entrance points to local and collector roads, the city would require 850 signs.

“To complete the manufacturing and installation of the required signs utilizing current staff resources, (it) would cost approximately $320,000 and take approximately four to five years to complete,” the report notes. “Additionally, it will require an increase of $8,170 to the annual sign maintenance budget.”

Staff are not naive. They understand most people will drive at higher speeds than those posted.

“The posted speed limit of a roadway does not limit the speed of drivers. For each speed limit where data was collected, the 85th percentile speed exceeds the speed limit and for roads with a posted 40 km/hour speed limit, the average and 85th percentile speeds are only 1 km/hour lower than roads with a 50 km/h speed limit,” the report states (the 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 per cent of drivers are travelling and is generally accepted as a good indicator of an appropriate speed limit).

They also say that speed limits of 40 km/hour in school zones generally have little impact.

“A 10 km/hour reduction in the speed limit has yielded no reduction in overall operating speeds,” the report indicates. “Also, while the majority of drivers were obeying the 50 km/hour speed limits, only a small minority are obeying the 40 km/hour speed limits.”

Signage alone is not enough. Police enforcement will be required to make a difference, but then staff is concerned that patrolling intersections and roadways may overwhelm the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

“As the studies have shown, simply lowering the speed limit alone is not enough to lower operating speeds. Police enforcement is an effective measure to have drivers reduce their operating speed to the posted speed limit,” the report notes. “It not only affects the drivers who violate the speed limit but also those who hear about or see others get caught.

“The challenge with enforcement is the effects are both limited in time and place. Without constant and  rigorous enforcement of the speed limit, drivers tend to return to operating their vehicle at the speed they feel most comfortable, regardless of the posted speed limit. Also, police enforcement in one area of the city will not affect the operating speeds in other areas. Without implementing engineering measures to force motorists to slow down, staff have concerns with the burden that will be imposed on the Greater Sudbury Police Service to appropriately enforce a reduced speed limit on all residential roads.”

Staff recommends the operations committee delay the introduction of reduced speed limits “until consideration is given to additional measures which will impact the operating speeds of vehicles,” including automated speed enforcement or an expanded bollard traffic-calming program.

“Should council choose to advance the 40 km/hour residential speed limit through the gateway speed limit program prior to the consideration of additional measures to impact vehicle operating speeds, staff recommend the program be implemented evenly across all 12 wards over a five-year period and that staff work with each ward councillor to prioritize areas within each ward,” the report concludes.

Twitter: @marykkeown

705 674 5271 ext. 505235