Reduced 40 km/h speed limits to be implemented across Cambridge

By Doug Coxson

Reduced speed limits in residential neighbourhoods and school zones will be in place across the City of Cambridge later this year after city council voted unanimously to support the expansion of a two-year pilot program that saw speed limits set at 40 km/h in select neighbourhoods. 

Council approved the expansion of neighbourhood area 40km/h speed limits across the entire city while also reducing speed limits in school zones to 30km/h.

The estimated cost for implementing Neighbourhood Area speed limits throughout the city is $535,000 for speed signage installation and public communication to help inform and educate residents of the speed limit changes.

A report on how the city plans to phase in the limits with signage, bylaw changes and enforcement measures is expected to return to council later this year.

Changes to the Highway Traffic Act in 2020 allowed municipalities to establish their own speed limits, but many municipalities had already implemented programs that lowered speed limits.

Among the notable cities where the program has proven effective at reducing accidents and pedestrian injuries and fatalities is Toronto where speed limits were reduced from 40 km/h to 30 km/h in some residential areas in 2015 and 2016. It resulted in a 28 per cent reduction in collisions involving pedestrians and a 67 per cent reduction in serious and fatal injuries.

So far the pilot program in Cambridge has seen vehicle speeds decreased among the 85th percentile by 1.1 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Studies have shown the likelihood of survival in a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian is about 15 per cent when the vehicle is travelling 50 km/h. The likelihood of survival increases to 70 per cent when the vehicle is travelling at 40 km/h.

Reduced speed limits are intended to encourage more conscious driving behaviours, reduce the occurrence and severity of collisions and create more welcoming environments for pedestrians and active modes of transportation.

Coun. Adam Cooper wanted to note that the blame for accidents involving pedestrians doesn't entirely lie with drivers.

“We need to acknowledge all contributing elements. Everyone needs to be careful here,” Cooper said. “When you're crossing the street, wherever you are, pay attention, put your phone down.”

The program is separate from the region's automated speed enforcement (ASE) program, which is currently in operation in two school safety zones in Cambridge to automatically ticket drivers who exceed the 40 km/h speed limit. The region is expected to roll out more ASE locations in Cambridge and across the region later this year and will work in collaboration with the city in its implementation of the new speed limits.

Some will be permanent and some cameras will be rotated to help “curb and encourage better driver behaviour.”

Delegation Debbie Scott, who lives near Dolph Street and Hamilton Road in Preston urged the city to ramp up enforcement in the school zone there, saying a speed camera would pay for itself “in no time.” She also asked for “calming features” or stop signs along Montrose Street to stop Preston High School students from using the street as a throughway.

Coun. Sheri Roberts said speeding is the “number one concern” she's hearing from residents.

“I've been informed of many near misses and a few pedestrians or cyclists being struck by speeding vehicles resulting in some pretty significant injuries,” she said. “The impact on travel times by reducing speeds is minimal. Studies have shown it's about a minute, minute and a half on 10 kilometres when you're decreasing from 50 to 40 (km/h) and I think everyone around the table would agree a couple of minutes is a small price to pay to save lives.”

Coun. Scott Hamilton offered his full support, particularly in regards to school safety zones to protect the most vulnerable residents of the community, our children.

“Mine dart in unpredictable, irrational ways and I think lowering the speeds around schools and ensuring that's a priority is a win-win for both residents and children as well,” he said. “Even if this only reaches 10, 15 per cent of the community, that's potential lives saved.”

Council also endorsed a new Speed Limit Policy to provide a consistent process for determining appropriate speed limits on city streets, resulting in reductions on Allendale Road, Boxwood Drive, Cherry Blossom Road and Royal Oak Road to 50km/h.  

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