Are 30 km/h residential streets in our future?
I asked that question back in 2010 after listening to a British prof at Velo-City Global 2010 in Copenhagen.
At that time, I noted that more North American urban planners are turning to traffic calming to bring speeds down: chicanes, speed bumps, lowered speed limits in designated neighbourhoods.
Now have a look at this article by Ceri Woolsgrove in the recent issue of the European Cyclists' Federation newsletter on the growing interest in 30 km/h limits in Europe.
The benefits are obvious in suburban or densely urban settings: slower speeds mean a more diverse roadway metric. Cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders and others will mix with motorists. And lower speeds mean accidents, when they do occur, are less likely fatal for pedestrians and cyclists, and are of lower cost to the insurance industry when involving motor vehicles.
One of the big arguments in favour of the Block Line Road/Homer Watson Boulevard roundabout in Waterloo Region is that traffic would slow down (from 70 km/h to 50 km/h, or slower in the roundabout) such that, even if the number of accidents in the roundabout rose from the average in the previous signalized intersection, the overall injury rate would be lower and the overall cost (to the insurance industry) would be lower because the fender benders would come in below most motorists' deductible.
The point of the planners was that motorists like to keep moving, and will even accept speed limits much lower than what would be normally expected, as long as they could keep moving.
Check out the slalom course on Kingswood Drive in Kitchener, where chicanes and speed bumps make the street a moguls course. It doesn't seem to have reduced traffic, but it does seem to have slowed it down.
Is the street now safer for cyclists and pedestrians? Woolsgrove would argue that cyclists and peds are still seen as impedimetal by motorists. He suggests that getting speed limits lowered to encourage more variety of road users will have to be a top-down, rather than bottom-up, decision.