Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To speed or not to speed

In less than a week, the local transportation community has spawned two proposals for a change in speed limits.

The first, from Ontario-based, wants the provincial highway speed limit RAISED to 120 - 140 km/h. And the other – from Toronto chief medical officer, Dr. David McKeown, is to CUT Toronto municipal speed limits to 30 km/h.

Ironically, both are citing safety as a factor. says that drivers travelling under 130 km/h, which they claim is the average highway flow of traffic, are a hazard. The reason is, this causes “other motorists to brake rapidly, tailgate or frantically attempt to pass.”

McKeown cites in his report “Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto”, that pedestrians were less likely to be killed for every 10 km/h reduction below 60 km/h. Standard Toronto speed limits are 40 to 50 km/h.

This drew guffaws from Toronto’s venerable Sun newspaper, which plastered a photo of a horse and buggy on its cover with the headline “Slow and Stupid.”  

The real reason for the Chief Medical Officer’s report is to encourage walking and bicycling, which would generate health benefits and reduce health care spending in Toronto by $110 to $160 million. Additionally, costs associated with pedestrian-vehicle collisions cost Toronto over $53 million, and cyclist-vehicle collisions over $9 million.

Could our police department keep up with any of it? When to ticket, when not to ticket? Would we lose revenue or gain it? Which war is being fought here – the war on the car or the war on the cyclist and pedestrian?

Neither proposal has a snowman’s chance in Hades to get the green light. But we need to hear about them, if only to keep the conversation going. Road safety belongs not only in the headlines but in our heads. Let’s keep talking. 


  1. On highway, when we were going at 100km/hr, we can see that people are going faster than 110. So, I think, highway maximum speed should be increased. In the city, the max speed is 50 or 60. I think, 30 will be very slow. While walking and biking is good for health, the motorists have a right to use the roads too. Many pedestrians are j-walking and inviting accidents. I use the bus to get around. To take the bus and to reach the work place in time, I need more time than taking a car. Taking the commuting time also in consideration,taking a car to work is cheaper than taking the transit.
    And, with city speed reduced to 30, how long will it take to reach somewhere in time...
    I hope, the speed limits are not going to change.And wish to keep the city speed the same and not lower.

    1. Yes, it's crazy! Usually motorists are travelling over 100 K anyways. Those that aren't are usually in the right hand lane. And lowering the speed limit - while the intent is good, the reality would be impossible. People are in too much of a hurry!

  2. I can honestly say that the speed thing always seems to swing from one extreme to the other. Here is California our speed limit was 70 on the freeway them it went to 55 now it's back to 70. I believe it all depends on the politics, not the rational, that determines what it will be set at .... Sigh! :-), Susan Cooper

  3. I believe it also has to do with oil supply - wasn't the speed reduced due to oil shortages in the 1970s? Going any faster than 60 mph, doesn't really get you there any faster - it's really just pushing air, as a friend of mine says. And burns more fuel. Oh, those politicians!

  4. The speed limit was reduced in the states to the double nickle, 55, around 1973 or '74. I seem to recall the converted speed limit on the Eastern Townships turnpikes was about 70MPH, with no change. I can only speak to the years up to about '77 or '78 though, as I didn't get up there much after that.

  5. Speed always does the same things when a car has to be stopped: reduces the time to take action, lengthens the distance needed to stop, increases the force upon impact, and raises the chances that death or injuries will occur. As a rule it also tends to decrease fuel economy, as more mass needs more gas.

    1. So true! We're wrapped in our bubbles and seemingly oblivious to the hazards of getting somewhere a few seconds sooner. Does it really matter?

    2. Yes, it does (matter).

  6. when I read about the second proposal from Dr. David Mckeown to cut the speeds to what? excuse me to 30Km/h (?) on that grounds that it would get us to exercise more, my first thought have to be joking! Is Canada turning into a "nanny state" where we have to be told what to do for our best interests?

    I agree that we need to exercise more, be more physical, but this is not the way to do it and in fact I could see people young and old being up in arms!

    ...and what about the buses if this ever were to happen, would they be under that same law? While ridership of public transportation is rising, there are still far too many problems, some of them being connections, speed of travel etc.

    The fact is, over the last 40 yrs( give or take) speed limits have been going down, some of them due to the cost of oil, some of them because of population density and "safety issues".

    How about my proposal, which begins with common sense?

    On the highways, raising the speed limit to max 110 km/h would be a good speed ( where the population density is scarce and of course dependant on the weather)

    In the cities closing most of the downtown core down to car traffic and having only bus and pedestrian/cyclist traffic would not be a bad idea as the congestion is terrible and it sure is not speed that causes the accidents.

    In the outer core of a city, keep the speed to 50 km/h and create three lanes one for cyclists one for autos and one for buses, with the buses getting the right of way and making it so that people will get a tax break when parking and using the bus to get into the core.

    In the suberbs, keep everything the way it is, but adding buses so that people would want to travel using public transport and leave their cars at home.

    Is my idea any more far fetched than what has been proposed? The reality is my idea would never get the green light either..but at least I am thinking.

  7. Some interesting ideas there - and I'll bet people in the suburbs would love to have more buses!

  8. I wish we could somehow tax according to speed, as in, you drive faster, you're taxed higher. That might cut down on it. I'd hate to spend extra to speed.