Sunday, 11 July 2010
How's THAT for traffic calming !
Winnipeggers are easily bent out of shape when it comes to interfering with their right to drive as they please. Painting bike lanes on roadways, something fairly common in other cities for decades, is looked upon in some circles as a sort of government conspiracy.
Last year, anger bubbled over setting lower speed limits in construction zones because, quelle horreur, people might slow down only to find that there wasn't a construction worker that they might have clipped with their side view window. The mere purchase of speed limit signs earlier this year reignited some of that anger.
I can only imagine the shitstorm of protest if we found ourselves in the situation that many U.K. councils are looking at: 20 mph (32 kph) zones !
Concerned with child-car accidents, Britain began experimenting with 20 mph zones (officially called Child Safety Zones) in 1991. A 2009 study found there are now over 2,000 of these zones, many are in the vicinity of schools or residential parks, and that most are created using traffic calming devices such as speed bumps.
The results ? Pedestrian-car accidents in these zones fell by 60%. Those involving cyclists were down 29%. Even in areas where only signage was used to calm the speed, no bumps, there was still a 15% reduction in accidents.
The zones have an advocate in Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker who is among a number of politicians and public groups calling for the zones to be introduced throughout entire urban areas.
Before you think this is some crazy Euro- socialism thing, there are examples of lower speed zones right here in North America. Most are in the form of school speed zones. British Columbia recently expanded the hours of their school traffic zones, which require motorists to slow down 30kph between the hours of 8:30 to 5:00 pm. Alberta is looking at having their 30 kph school zones start at 7:30 a.m.. Vancouver recently considered a recommendation to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of Hastings from 50 kph to 30 kph.
Closer to home, the City and R.M. of Portage la Prairie have applied to be able to post reduced speed zones in schools and playground areas.
So where are we in Winnipeg ?
We, of course, do not have any speed reduction zones for playgrounds or school zones. Oddly we've had a speed hump program in place since 2003 aimed solely at residential streets and lanes. Hump programs have had a bad rap of late. Seen as environmentally unfriendly and even panned by CMHC as a band-aid for bad urban planning. (For more on good and bad ways to calm traffic in residential areas from CMHC).
Still, we have seen that speed, even within the speed limit, takes a toll on our streets. In just the past month a girl was hospitalized in critical condition after being struck on Shamrock Drive, outside a greenspace. As well, a boy was killed by a vehicle outside the Pritchard Playground on Charles Street.
It may be time for us to get with it when it comes to having special speed zones around parks and schools. For those of you who think that we could never get used to it, go drive in places like Calgary or San Antonio Texas. People really do get used to them.
20s Plenty Campaign (UK)
Taming the Flow: Better Traffic and Safer Neighbourhoods CMHC
How London is saving lives with 20mph zones Streetsblog
The day I hit a child at 20mph Independent (U.K.)