An Owen Sound committee is not recommending council lower the speed limit on all residential streets to 40 kilometres an hour after a staff review concluded speeding is not a “chronic issue” city-wide.
Instead, the operations committee is endorsing a staff-recommended three-part plan – which is to come to council Monday – to address problem areas.
It calls for piloting “traffic-calming measures” that curb speeding, dropping the speed limit in school zones to 30 km/h starting in 2022 and directing staff to work with the police service to identify and come up with solutions for “problematic” streets.
“In doing the research on this, the police have been pretty clear that speeding is not a chronic problem in the city. But there a number of residents that have come to us and pointed out a number of roads that have long stretches without any stops and streets that have become shortcuts for folks where speeding has become a problem, so this is an effort to curtail that,” Coun. Brock Hamley, the committee’s chair, said Friday.
The plan is also in response to national findings that children are most often the victims of vehicle collisions involving pedestrians, he said.
Research shows that lowering speed limits from 50 to 30 km/h will result in drivers reducing their speed, on average, from 46 km/h to 34 km/h, he said.
“That kind of gap drastically lowers the chance of significant injury or fatality,” Hamley said.
City council directed staff in November 2019 to undertake studies aimed at slowing down traffic in residential areas and school zones.
The motion was in response to city hall seeing a significant rise in complaints about vehicles travelling at excessive speeds in certain areas.
The city received a 22-name petition in spring 2019 from residents on a windy stretch of 4th Street A West, just south of 5th Street West, that urged council to reduce the speed limit on that street from 50 to 30 km/h and install speed bumps.
It also heard speeding concerns from residents north of the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, near both Notre Dame Catholic and Timothy Christian schools and in the 100 to 600 blocks of 6th Avenue West.
Staff was asked to examine dropping the speed limit to 40 km/h on all local roads – busy arterial streets wouldn’t have been included – and look into designating certain areas as school or community safety zones with lower speed limits. They were also directed to look into the idea of implementing traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps, in certain areas.
Dennis Kefalas, director of public works and engineering, said staff met with the Owen Sound Police Service during their review to discuss data related to speeding and vehicle collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists.
Police data revealed no pedestrians or cyclists have been killed in collisions with vehicles in Owen Sound in the past three years. About 15 vehicle-versus-pedestrian collisions occur annually, Kefalas said, but speed wasn’t considered a factor in about half of those incidents.
“When we started to do our research – talking to police services and reviewing some of the data – we found out that speeding isn’t chronic throughout the community,” he said Friday.
“There are a couple of key locations where speeding occurs, so we made the decision to address those one-on-one.”
In discussions with police, staff identified areas where speeding has been identified as a concern, Kefalas said in a report.
They include: East Bayshore Road; Eddie Sargent Parkway; 15th Street B East; 8th Street East from 16th to 28th Avenue; 6th Avenue West from 4th Avenue West to Blacks Park; 4th Avenue West from 21st Street to 14th Street West; and the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of 4th Avenue West.
Kefalas said he’s recommending staff meet with the police service at least annually to discuss problem areas and prepare any budget requests to address speeding on those streets.
The committee is also recommending council direct staff to pilot the use of traffic-calming measures on 6th Avenue West.
“Proceeding with a pilot project will allow staff to monitor several devices that have come up in discussions with public works and engineering staff and OSPS as viable devices that should help reduce speeding,” Kefalas said.
“Operations staff have concerns on how such devices will affect winter control operations. This pilot project will allow staff to determine if these concerns are valid.”
The devices will include speed humps and flexible bollards, which are mounted on the centre line of the street and display the speed limit.
The pilot will cost about $3,500.
The proposed school zones, with 30 km/h speed limits, would be located at almost every elementary and secondary school in Owen Sound.
Further consultation with the police and Grey County will have to happen, Kefalas said, before the city decides on any changes to the school zone in front of East Ridge Community School.
If council supports the school zone proposal, staff will develop sign options and estimates for the 2022 budget, Kefalas said.