In order to truly get into the details of what it would take to bring a town-wide 40 km/h speed limit to Collingwood, staff will first need to look into how much such an investigation would cost in time and money.
During Monday night’s council meeting, councillors and staff discussed a motion brought forward by Coun. Yvonne Hamlin to have staff investigate the possibility of setting the maximum speed for all roads in the municipality to a maximum of 40 km/h.
However, discussion hit a speed bump when Manager of Engineering, John Velick, told councillors such a request could carry a significant cost.
“If we’re going to collect data on (this) and sort through the thousands of accidents that have occurred over the years, that’s going to take time and money,” said Velick.
When making her opening comments on her intent behind the motion, Hamlin said she didn’t expect that all roads in town would be affected by such a change.
“That wouldn’t make sense,” said Hamlin. “I’m really thinking of – and I know staff would as well, if they were looking at it – local roads and collector roads. Not arterial roads.”
“I would also be hoping for a quick turnaround on this,” she said.
Hamlin noted many residents had submitted comments since the motion was tabled, many pointing to the advantages of reducing the speed limit.
“There are bad drivers out there. That’s true, but I think, notwithstanding that, with a lower speed limit at least we know that if accidents happen, at a lower speed limit it’s better for anyone who is at the bad end of that,” said Hamlin.
Coun. Mariane McLeod asked Collingwood Fire chief Ross Parr how many motor vehicle collisions the department responded to last year. He said there had been 128, however clarified that was all motor vehicle collisions, not just ones involving pedestrians.
McLeod also asked Coun. Kathy Jeffery as chair of the Collingwood Police Services Board if there had been discussions with the OPP regarding enforcement.
“Traffic enforcement is a constant conversation,” said Jeffery. “So far, the recommendation has been continuing with police enforcement, even with the automated enforcement system. It’s like any other resource. They only have so many and they can only be at so many places at once.”
“It is a top priority with them,” she said.
McLeod said that since council had just passed their new traffic calming policy, she deferred adding more on the subject until they had a chance to see how it unfolded.
“I’d like to see if it works before we override it,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Keith Hull asked if it would be worthwhile to consult with other neighbouring municipalities on the subject including the Town of the Blue Mountains, Clearview and both Grey and Simcoe Counties.
He also addressed comments on the issue he had seen on social media.
“I tried to stay away from reading comments, but it’s really disappointing. I read some of the comments specifically directed at (Coun. Hamlin), because that is the name attached to this, that were quite derogatory and inflammatory. It’s really a shame because all you’re asking is to have a conversation and ask for a report,” said Hull.
Coun. Tina Comi spoke against the option to refer it back to staff.
“The way other municipalities have done this, is they vote on whether they want 40 km/h speed limits. Staff tell them how much it will be to replace all the signs. They come back with a number, they vote and boom, it’s done,” said Comi.
“If there’s one thing our residents are at their absolutely maximum capacity at, in my opinion, are reports about reports about reports,” she said. “Now, we want a report about a report to calm our traffic? I’m a little baffled by this. I don’t think I’m oversimplifying.”
“It’s completely within our purview to drop the speed limit, right now if we want to,” she said.
Hamlin’s motion is in response to an earlier presentation on a proposed traffic calming policy made to a council committee last month, which was passed at council this week.
Michael Cullip of Tatham Engineering and Velick presented the traffic calming study and a list of options to council’s development and operations standing committee on May 10.
As part of the presentation, Cullip cited a study by Eric Rosén and Ulrich Sander (both in Sweden) on pedestrian fatality risk as a function of car impact speed, which indicates the fatality risk for a pedestrian when a car is travelling at 50 km/h is more than twice as high as the risk at 40 km/h and more than five times higher than the risk at 30 km/h.
In the presentation, Cullip said a pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling at 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) has an 89 per cent chance of survival, compared to a 68 per cent chance if a car is travelling at 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
During Monday's meeting, McLeod spoke in favour of referring the matter back to staff first, as she had questions about how this would impact the existing 40 km/h roads and spaces in Collingwood.
“I would like some specifics based on facts, not on feelings,” said McLeod. “It wouldn’t be 40 everywhere in Collingwood. That’s not the message I want to send.”
“We have a lot on our plate right now. There is a lot of information being requested of our staff,” she said.
Council voted to refer the issue back to staff to prepare a preliminary report on the scope, costs, and timelines associated with a staff investigation of a town-wide 40km/h speed limit, to be brought forward at a future meeting.