Monday, September 21, 2009

speedy streets?

CATCH News – September 19, 2009

Speed limit rules changed

The city has adopted new guidelines for speed limits on urban and rural roads that rely on drivers to determine the most appropriate velocity. The guidelines that were produced by a national road association will be supplemented with a modified policy for school zones.

The report from the city’s traffic management department argues that “motorists drive at a speed which they find comfortable based on visual cues and their surroundings and not from the speed limit signs” and therefore road safety is improved by setting speed limits “that match the expectation” of drivers.

“The ideal speed limit would be self enforcing,” says the report . “In most cases, the majority of drivers do find the optimum travel speed, and it is inappropriate to set a posted speed limit that is inconsistent with driver’s perceptions, and rely on police enforcement to try to reduce operating speeds.”

The new policy follows guidelines released this year by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC), a 95 year old organization that was originally called the Canadian Good Roads Association. It changed its name in 1970 to the Roads and Transportation Association and subsequently dropped the roads reference as it “expand its mandate to include all modes of transport for passengers and freight in the 1990s.

“TAC has a primary focus on roadways and their strategic linkages and inter-relationships with other components of the transportation system,” says the group’s website .

The organization doesn’t have a policy for school zones, so city staff have devised one that will be considered for use within 150 metres of a school. It would set a maximum 40 km per hour limit but on major roads that may only apply for part of the school day.

“Arterial roads have a primary purpose of moving traffic. Lower speed limits are generally contrary to this explicit purpose”, explains the policy attached to the staff report. “However, recognizing the need to provide for the safety of school-aged pedestrians en route to school, it may be appropriate to slow the maximum permissible speed of motor vehicle traffic. The time-limited speed limit strikes a balance between the safety of school children and the need to ensure mobility through the city.”

Glanbrook councillor Dave Mitchell welcomed the change which he hopes will result in lower posted speeds on some rural roads – something that has been previously requested by the city’s agricultural and rural affairs subcommittee.

Hart Solomon, the city’s director of traffic engineering and operations, told Mitchell that in some cases the new rules could mean a 10 km per hour reduction in current limits.

Downtown councillor Bob Bratina wanted to know if the policy would affect a proposed 30 km speed limit sought by residents of the north end neighbourhood and endorsed in principle by council.

Solomon assured him that “council always has the authority to override” the new rules.

“This policy doesn’t look at speed limits under 50 km in local areas so this would just be a special case and we’ve already anticipated that it would exist as a pilot project,” he said.

The report doesn’t directly address pedestrian or cycling safety. The city’s public health department is advocating for more walkable communities through its Hamilton Walks project, and a new cycling master plan was recently presented to council by the city’s alternative transportation coordinator.

The staff report shows consultation only with the Hamilton police service who “agrees completely with the concept of setting speed limits based on good engineering principles” and “does not support artificially low speed limits due to the impact on fair and appropriate enforcement.”

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at . You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to .

No comments: