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Council considering speed limit changes near schools, parks

‘I think most of us would agree that vehicle speed in our public spaces is becoming a bigger issue as Collingwood grows,’ says Collingwood councillor
A community safety zone.

The Town of Collingwood is considering a major overhaul of its traffic rules in community safety zones around town, adding new areas of town to the list and installing new crosswalk pavement markings in school zones.

However, some advocates and councillors believe the proposed rules still don’t go far enough to keep residents safe.

During council’s committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 4, councillors got a first look at the new rules, which would see speed limits in such zones maintained or changed to 40 kilometres per hour across the board.

“This issue is near and dear to my heart,” said Coun. Steve Perry during discussion. “I think most of us would agree that vehicle speed in our public spaces is becoming a bigger issue as Collingwood grows.”

“Parents do not feel comfortable enough allowing their children to ride a bike or walk to school due to congestion, speed and safety issues. I’d like to change that mindset.”

Staff have included nine recommendations to improve community safety zones across Collingwood, which include:

  1. Reduce posted speed limits to 40 kilometres per hour within community safety zones where speed limits have not been reduced previously
  2. Designate additional sections of municipal roadways as community safety zones
  3. Designate additional sections of municipal roadways as school zones
  4. Reduce posted speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour within all school zones
  5. Implement zebra/ladder bar crosswalk pavement markings at intersections within school zones
  6. Convert existing unprotected/uncontrolled pedestrian school crossings to pedestrian cross overs
  7. Repeal all applicable bylaws and bring forward a new bylaw that encompasses all proposed zone designations and speed limits within those zones
  8. Consider purchasing additional radar speed signs within selected community safety zones
  9. Consider additional funding for an education campaign within the affected school areas, to be considered in annual budgets

Seventeen new community safety zone locations are being considered as part of the changes, which includes Peel St. between Hume and Hurontario St., Katherine Street between Lorne St. and Lockhart Road and Walnut Street between Seventh and Tenth St.

These changes, if endorsed, will be in effect all day and night, every day of the year, with exceptions for zones on Hurontario St. and Highway 26, which will only have speed reductions during school hours as they are arterial roads.

Perry put forward an amendment to the staff recommendations, to have community safety zones reduced to a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour and include all public schools (including high schools) and parks, to lengthen the community safety zones to 250 metres and to include both public and private schools on the list.

“I truly believe this is a step in the right direction to help this community become a safer place,” said Perry.

Darlene Craig and Jeanette Beck, representatives from Safe Streets Collingwood, first came before councillors at their Nov. 20 meeting to ask them to consider amending existing bylaws to reduce speed limits in community safety zones to 30 kilometres per hour, and to expand the reach of those zones to 250 metres from the current 150 metres, measured from the school’s property line.

Craig and Beck attended council’s Dec. 4 committee of the whole meeting as well to respond to the staff report.

“This current report does not increase the length of school safety zones,” said Craig. “They’re just too short and not effective.”

“The value of the safety of a child is something council has to decide upon,” said Beck.

Community safety zones are sections of roadway where fines for traffic violations are increased through a special designation under the Highway Traffic Act. School zones in Ontario are identified by a yellow sign with two pedestrians walking together. Typical speed limits in school zones are between 30 and 40 kilometres per hour.

The community safety zones are implemented in areas where public safety is of special concern and there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic, such as schools, parks, playgrounds, senior citizen residences and hospitals.

Coun. Deb Doherty said she would also be in support of the 30-kilometre-per-hour speed limit in community safety zones.

“(The report) still isn’t as simplified as it could be,” she said, adding that the speed limit in both community safety zones and school zones should both be 30.

Mayor Yvonne Hamlin asked if town staff could meet with Safe Streets Collingwood representatives to discuss the plan before it comes back to council in two weeks for ratification.

“I’m very pleased to see this staff report. Over the past five years, I had been hoping we would get to this happy place,” said Hamlin. “It’s recognition that the safety of our road network extends to our pedestrians and cyclists.”

“This report is a huge step forward,” she said.

The town's director of public works, engineering and environmental services, Peggy Slama noted that $100,000 had currently been set aside as part of the 2024 budget to get work underway on implementing any changes approved through the motion, and that other changes would be dependant on future year budget approval.

“We’ll get as much done as we can through that,” said Slama.

Perry acknowledged that he expected the process to make all the changes would be a multi-year process.

“I harken back to how important it is to keep our kids safe. If it costs a few dollars more, I’m very comfortable with that,” he said.

At the end of discussion, councillors voted in favour of Perry’s amendment for 30 km/h speed limits and expanded safety zones. 

The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular council meeting on Dec. 18 before going into effect.

To read the full report which outlines all the changes recommended by staff, click here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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