Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Cities across Canada are slowing down cars. Forty is the new 50. It is a win for people.

In the Victoria suburbs, eleven small municipalities are planning a pilot program to reduce the speed limit on residential roads to 40 kilometres an hour from 50. In Vancouver, the 30 km/h limit for schools and playgrounds is being extended around the clock, rather than only during certain hours. The city is also testing a 30 km/h “slow zone” neighbourhoood in East Vancouver.

Toronto is also moving to rein in drivers. Last year, it cut speeds on stretches of arterial roads to 50 km/h from 60. And this month, 50 speed cameras went live around the city near schools or other designated “safety zones.” These cameras were first installed late last year, but until now only dispatched warnings to offending drivers. The 50 cameras may only be a first step – there are about 800 schools in Toronto – but research shows automated enforcement causes drives to slow down.

Story continues below advertisement

All these efforts are welcome, though there is much more to do.

The idea of lower speed limits will at first seem onerous to many drivers; an undue intrusion on the freedom of the road. We have all been conditioned to prioritize cars and speed. Our cities have been built for cars, to move them as quickly as possible from A to B, the faster the better. So it is no surprise that 40 km/h sounds slow and 30 feels snail-like. A speed limit of 50 has forever been considered normal on residential streets, with higher speeds on larger roads.

But speed kills.

The chances of a person surviving being hit by a car going 50 km/h is less than one in five. At 70 km/h, it is almost guaranteed that the pedestrian will be killed. But at 30 km/h, nine in 10 pedestrians survive.

People are dying because urban planning has long overvalued cars and undervalued pedestrians. National data for 2018, released last week by Transport Canada, shows yet another year when drivers and their vehicles killed more than 300 people on foot.

In Toronto, drivers killed 38 pedestrians last year – many of them older people. It was a typical year. The deaths were the result of drivers hitting more than 1,400 pedestrians. Since 2005, at least 110 pedestrians a year, and as many as 215, suffered serious injuries.

These numbers are all too high. There are solutions all Canadian cities can institute to reduce the fatalities. Cities such as Toronto and others are taking some of the right steps – starting with lower speed limits and enforcement.

Story continues below advertisement

The policy changes are taking place under the banner of “Vision Zero.” The idea, originating in Scandinavia in the late 1990s, is that no pedestrian should ever be killed by a car.

Two decades later, the results are remarkable.

Zero pedestrians died in Helsinki and Oslo last year. The policy measures that achieved that feat are varied, but all centre around battling the primacy of the car. Lowering speed limits is key. Other changes include safer street design, road tolls, more expensive parking, and replacing much of the street parking with wider sidewalks and bike lanes. Investment in transit has spurred ridership. While Toronto has put up speed cameras around 6 per cent of the city’s schools, Oslo is testing “heart zones” where driving around schools is banned.

“Car traffic will always be part of the city,” said Oslo’s mayor, “but the drivers should act as guests.”

The steps taken so far in Canada are important but they are still early steps. The cameras in Toronto, for instance, are focused around schools. The safety of children garners unanimous backing. But such zones, because of their relatively low speed limits, are not where most people are getting killed. Bringing in automated enforcement is great, but it needs to be deployed where pedestrians are at far greater risk, on big streets with currently higher speed limits.

The move toward automated enforcement, however, is key. Some critics believe drivers simply will not slow down, even if limits are lowered. But the threat of a costly speeding ticket surely is ample inspiration for many drivers to ease up on the gas pedal, making the city a safer and better place for everyone, at the most minor of inconveniences with fractional increases in travel time.

Story continues below advertisement

Compared with Scandinavia, Canadian cities are taking only baby steps. But they are, finally, on the right road.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies