Making Montreal a 30 kmh zone?
Speed limits – There are drivers who respect the speed limits in Montreal, but there are far too many who blatantly do not, especially on residential streets. In fact, we have a reputation of being the worst drivers in Canada. To some the repute has become somewhat amusing, but it is not. People are being seriously injured or killed – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers included.
Stop signs appear to have no effect, except for having drivers slow down, blink left and right – and never come to a full stop. Speed bumps are largely ineffective in this case, unless they are in line with the stop sign. Yellow traffic lights, indicating an imminent red light to drivers approaching an intersection, should inspire caution and the judgment to slow down and stop – if one is not already about to cross. Instead it inspires many to hit the gas pedal and fly through the intersection so they could beat the light, which they don’t. It creates the scenario for a horrific accident, with very deadly consequences. And it has happened too frequently.
Pedestrian crosswalks, meant to slow drivers down and actually come to a full stop when someone is crossing, are often ignored. Albeit, the majority of our crosswalks are simply painted lines that are often faded, with a couple of little signs indicating priority is to be given to pedestrians. They are poor examples in comparison to what many other cities have.
Perhaps it’s the stress of modern daily life, the frustration of city traffic congestion or just ignorance – but they are all sadly, poor excuses.
Just recently, the denizens that be at Montreal City Hall announced measures aimed at slowing down the lead-footed Montreal driver. It is a long overdue initiative – but unfortunately, one that could prove to be basically ineffective. It’s all about the follow through.
At the July 4th press conference at City Hall, Mayor Denis Coderre unveiled his plans to reduce speed limits on most of the city’s streets, with the goal of having the new limits in effect by late 2018 or early 2019. But if the speed limits are not properly enforced, as they are not now – what difference will it make except costing taxpayers $2 million to change all the signs?
Here is what is proposed:
– 30 km/h on residential streets, in school zones, near playgrounds and one-way commercial streets.
– 30 km/h in Old Montreal (*Some roads will be decreased to 20 km/h).
– 40 km/h in industrial areas and on the main arteries of the city, like Sherbrooke and René-Lévesque. (*Notre Dame street will be set at 60 km/h).
– 40 km/h on the main arteries on the outskirts of the city. (*Some will be set at 50 km/h).
The announcement brought applause and accolades from many people and groups – but it also brought forth a lot of skepticism.
The initiative is part of the ‘Vision Zero’ road-accident policy, an international movement started in Sweden in 1997 meant ‘to reduce the number of fatal or serious accidents on a specific territory to zero’. It is based on the fact humans make mistakes, so ‘road systems should be engineered as carefully as possible to ward off accidents, the public should be educated, and rules should be enforced’.
When Coderre first announced his ‘new’ Vision Zero road accident policy in September of 2016, then opposition leader of Projet Montreal, Luc Ferrandez said in a Montreal Gazette article ‘there was nothing new in the city’s action plan other than its name. Everything Mr. Coderre announced today, absolutely everything, was written in the 2008 transport plan of the city… some of these measures were announced by him several times. Nothing has been done.’
However, there were many who welcomed the July 4th announcement, although with caution.
“Lower speed limits will help make Montreal a safer place for cycling enthusiasts. It’s music to our ears,” Velo Quebec spokesperson Jean-Francois Pronovost said to the media. “We asked for this for years. For us, the comfort and safety of cyclists is of course infrastructure, but also a question of speed.”
Véronique Fournier, spokesperson for Piétons Québec also said, ‘It’s a step in the right direction. But more needs be done to ensure pedestrian safety, such as creating roads allowing greater space for pedestrians and cyclists… for now it’s encouraging to see Coderre taking pedestrian safety seriously.’
Yet Mayor Coderre’s initiative is not new. In fact, it comes on the heels of projects where lower speed limits are already in place, like the Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, Outremont, Sud-Ouest and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs – all who took their own initiatives. Even Hampstead already implemented lower speed limits.
Coderre had criticized the boroughs for their plans. He expressed deep concern over how it would ‘hinder businesses and in turn effect the city’s economy’. And now he has become a champion of the very same thing. It is an election year after all – and many more appeasing announcements are to be expected.
On Social Media the consensus seems to be divided, although the vast majority of people do welcome the idea of slowing down drivers. Who wouldn’t? The main concern is the enforcement of speed limits. The limits now in place are rarely enforced. How many times have you seen drivers speeding down a residential street, not stopping at a stop sign or going through a red light with nary a police officer in sight?
We can expect a few speed-trap blitzes when the new limits are in place, which will fill the coffers at city hall and inflate the statistics – but the question many people are asking is, what will happen after that? Putting up signs but not having a plan in place to really enforce it will leave the streets in the same place – dangerous. Let’s hope the initiative is followed through properly, either by the present administration or by the opposition party – who have already been fighting for safer, better streets and seriously positioning themselves to bring about a ‘changing of the guard’ at city hall this November.
What do you think? Will lowering the speed limits make our streets safer? Or is this just an election ‘carrot-on-a stick’ and/or a cash grab? We welcome you to share your thoughts with us and our readers.