Way back in 2010, while at Velo-city Global 2010 in Copenhagen, I posted on a presentation from John Whitelegg, a prof in transportation studies from John Moores University in Liverpool.
The post was titled "Are lower urban speed limits in our future?", based on his research showing that 95 per cent of peds and cyclists will survive being hit by objects travelling at a speed of 32 km/h or less, while fully 55 per cent won't survive being struck at 48 km/h or faster.
So, of course, it was with interest that I read the reportage on the recent Ontario coroner's report on pedestrian deaths in Ontario. While the coroner's Report on Cycling Deaths (released in June, go here for both reports) made virtually no mention of speed limits, the attention on the Pedestrian Death Review seemed to be entirely about the speed limits.
In fact, that was one recommendation of many. Here's the recommendation: "The MTO should amend the Highway Traffic Act to allow local municipalities to lower the unsigned default speed limit to 40 kilometres an hour on residential streets from the current limit of 50 kilometres an hour." (It was later elaborated to indicate that speed limits on residential streets should be reduced to 30 km/h while all other municipal streets should be 40 km/h.)
There were lots of other recommendations: that Ontario communities should adopt a "complete streets" approach to planning and redevelopment (a recommendation that also was the first item in the cycling deaths review); that the province should develop a walking strategy; that side guards be manadatory on transport trucks (also in the cycling deaths review); that the Driver's Handbook be updated to reflect the new realities (also in the cycling review); and that there be publlic education and police education and enforcement (also in the cycling review).
You could view both reports as convergent (the exceptions being the speed limits, mentioned only in the pedestrian review, and the three-foot passing law and mandatory helmets, mentioned only in the cycling review).
I think you can read a few things from both reviews:
One is that complete streets is the way of the future for municipal planning. No surprise since it is already happening at the grassroots level. Eventually, the provincial funding agencies will respond.
Another is that truck side guards are going to happen. They are already happening ... you can see examples on the major highways every day.
And another is lower speed limits. Not one of the "convergent" items, but cyclist and pedestrian advocates have been talking about lower limits for years. It fits with the complete streets planning model and is the logical way to reduce insurance costs, health funding, and energy consumption. Every roadway innovation of recent years -- traffic calming, roundabouts, community safety zones -- has been intended to reduce speed limits in the urban/suburban setting.
Lower speed limits are in our future and that can only be good news for cyclists.