*Early days of pilot program’s reduced speeds finding support from residents in affected neighbourhoodsSlowing winning fast approval*
A PILOT project to slow traffic in four neighbourhoods is being met with generally positive reviews from residents in its early stages.
New signs installed during the first two weeks of March reduced the speed limit to 30 km/h from 50 in the Bourkevale and Tyndall Park South neighbourhoods and to 40 km/h from 50 in Richmond West and Worthington.
Shannon Shields, whose son attends school in Bourkevale, said the reduced speed appears to be a good fit for the neighbourhood.
“It’s a very, very busy walking area…. It’s nice to see the official signs go up and it kind of just matches what the community wanted,” said Shields, noting some residents previously posted their own signs that urged drivers to slow down. “It’s nice. It just gives it a little bit of a different vibe that other neighbourhoods don’t have.”
Mike McMullen said he hopes the Bourkevale change becomes permanent.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially with a school nearby and all the kids,” said McMullen.
Josh Dyck said he also supports the change in Bourkevale but feels a 30 km/h limit would prove too slow and disruptive for larger residential thoroughfares.
“I would be fine if (on busier residential routes drivers) slowed down to 50. As long as they’re paying attention and being responsible, I think that’s reasonable,” said Dyck. “I understand people’s concerns about slowing down to 30 in certain neighbourhoods.”
Another driver, who did not want her name published, said the focus should not solely be on drivers to improve safety. She said more effort is also needed to teach pedestrians to travel cautiously, such as by looking both ways before crossing a street.
The pilot project is expected to have widespread implications.
“The reduced-speed neighbourhood pilot is the first step in determining the future of speed limits in Winnipeg’s residential areas,” city spokesman Ken Allen said in an emailed statement.
Allen said the test will help determine how reduced maximum speeds affect neighbourhood livability and driver behaviour.
“The pilot will help us determine if changing the posted speed limit changes how fast vehicles actually travel,” he said.
In Bourkevale’s case, many community members urged the city to reduce the speed before the pilot began.
Daevid Ramey, who helped launch the group Bourkevale 30 to advocate for the change, said desire to slow vehicles grew during the pandemic. He said the vast majority of his neighbours felt the standard 50 km/h residential speed limit didn’t mesh well with increased pedestrian and cycling traffic.
Ramey said the new lower speed limit is a better fit.
“It’s 30 km/h all the time. That makes our neighbourhood safer, it makes it quieter and it’s clear for drivers,” said Ramey.
Many supporters of reduced speed limits believe they make streets safer. Studies show that a pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling 50 km/h is much more likely to be killed or seriously injured than if the vehicle were travelling 30 km/h.
While noting serious collisions typically occur on busier traffic routes, Coun. Janice Lukes said she supports reduced residential speeds for a separate reason.
“It really will improve neighbourhood livability, (creating) calmer traffic, less noise, a more peaceful neighbourhood,” said Lukes (Waverley West), council’s public works chairwoman.
She said the changes will also offer a potential method to address an “outcry” for traffic-calming measures on many neighbourhood streets.
Lukes, whose ward includes Richmond West, said she received initial pushback on the reduced-speed pilot project in the form of a few dozen emailed complaints, which mostly alleged the program amounts to a tax grab or wastes city money.
However, she said she also received plenty of positive feedback over the last few weeks.
Coun. Shawn Dobson, whose St. James ward includes Bourkevale, said the 30 km/h speed limit makes sense for that area but he doesn’t believe the city should impose it on all residential routes.
“In an isolated area like this, it would probably work but (in some other) residential areas I don’t think it would…. It would be just too slow for (thoroughfares),” said Dobson.
The reduced-speed neighbourhood pilot project is scheduled to last one year. Once it concludes, a city report will recommend next steps.
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