I spent this morning hanging out in Council Chambers as I wanted to hear more about the speed limit review. I had also registered to speak to this issue. The main points I tried to address were: yes, let's reduce speed limits to 40km/hr - or maybe even 30km/hr; changing signs alone will likely not result in much change so let's also consider the importance of street design for this issue; and let's skip the 'pilot' aspect and implement this immediately this Fall. The TL;DR version is that the pilot passed with almost unanimous support.
But for those interested, here's a little more detail!
Staff stated that this approach would be just one tool in the toolbox alongside a variety of other city and citizen led initiatives. The upcoming Complete Streets plan was mentioned several times as being another important tool to help slow down our streets and make them more welcoming to all residents. In that plan, they specifically address streets that will have design speeds of 40km/hr (as opposed to being designed for faster speeds and simply putting up signs to attempt to have slower speeds).
Overall, there were some great key messages coming from staff though I was discouraged about the big emphasis on 'education and communication'. Those things are important of course, but without other measures such as street design and traffic-calming measures, they won't accomplish much I fear. Thankfully those other measures will also be used, but I wish they were emphasized more in today's discussion.
It was noted that Kitchener has been in discussions with the city of Waterloo and the Region as well. This is considered a 'Joint Services Initiative" with Waterloo and it sounds like Waterloo is looking at putting in speed reductions to 40km/hr in their upcoming master plan.
A couple of Councillors asked questions about the logistics for removing the pilot aspect and implementing this citywide this Fall. Staff had some reservations about it in terms of budget, communicating the importance/need for this to residents, and a couple of other issues. Councillors Johnston, Michaud, Marsh, and Chapman all saw some benefits to just implementing this now without a pilot. All other Councillors believed that a pilot was needed in order to gather quantitative data before proceeding with a more fulsome reduction in speeds. There was some reference to the importance of qualitative data as well (mostly by staff) but I worry many on Council were far more interested in quantitative data (for example, needing to see that speeds are reduced by x% in order to view this pilot as a success - I have concerns about this approach but I'll save that for another post!)
Mayor Vrbanovic wondered if we could consider making the standard 'city speed limit' 40km/hr unless otherwise posted. Staff believe the Highway Traffic Act would prohibit that and speed limits can only be reduced on the neighbourhood level. The mayor favoured the pilot, but I was excited to hear him reference Vision Zero with the hopes that Kitchener would explore what becoming a Vision Zero community could look like for Kitchener.
There was discussion of changing driver 'culture' versus driver 'behaviour'. Some thought changing behaviour seemed a more appropriate goal than changing 'culture'. One staff suggested that driving culture is 'that you drive what you're comfortable driving' (that can be impacted by street design, speed limits, etc). He went on to say that we need to change what people are comfortable with (meaning we need people to not be so comfortable driving so fast).
Alright, there was a lot more that was said in the almost 2 hour discussion on this, but I'm guessing I have only like 2 people who have made it this far ;) The original motion was slightly amended by Mayor Vrbanovic to include reference to this being only phase one of slowing down our streets. You can see the amended motion in the photo. It passed with 10 votes in favour. The only dissenter was Councillor Chapman. Based on her earlier comments in strong support of an immediate implementation of the reduced speed limits, I assume her dissenting vote was related to that and not that she didn't want the City to move ahead with reduced speed limits. #365ofgoodWR