Speed kills. Period.

By Sheila Vaselenak

I am baffled by the “speed problem” in the Glebe. Glebe residents are caring – they come together, hold block parties (pre-COVID), are civic-minded. And yet there is an over-arching behaviour of entitlement when it comes to speed.

You may be aware that the Glebe and other neighbourhoods in the city have what is called a “Gateway Speed Zone.” This means the speed limit is posted once at the entrance to each street. This does not work for various reasons:

    1. Drivers do not notice the posted speed.
    2. Drivers disregard the posted speed.
  1. If other effective traffic calming measures are not used as well, it renders the Gateway Speed Zone ineffective.

The Glebe also has two different posted speed limits. From Bronson Avenue to Bank Street the speed limit is 30 km/h; from Bank Street to Queen Elizabeth Drive and on Bank Street itself, the speed limit is 40 km/h. [Editor’s note: The Glebe streets east of Bank will move to 30 km/h shortly.]

Traffic calming measures are installed each spring and removed each autumn to allow snow clearing. They too do not work. The metal pylon stakes are installed in straight lines and cars do not slow down; neither do delivery trucks and school buses.

What works? Adding in physical infrastructure to naturally slow down drivers. Paint crosswalks in bold colours. Paint speed limits on the road. Use planter boxes to build out curbs. Build out curbs at entrances to the neighbourhood from busy arterial roads. Remove straight lines. Change parking block to block, meaning one block has parking on the one side and the next block has it on the other. This cost-effective measure works beautifully because drivers cannot drive down the centre of the road, and they must pay attention. This can slow speed down from 2 to 8 km/h.

Photo radar is another measure that is cost-effective for the city when compared to other measures and it is an effective way to curb speeding. Yes, we live where it snows. The City could redirect the money spent each year on installing and removing traffic calming and invest it instead in smaller, alternative snow-removal equipment to accommodate the above infrastructure. If it works in Almetyevsk, Russia, where they have implemented robust bike and modality infrastructure, it will work in Ottawa.

Why does it matter if drivers speed?

If you get hit by a car doing 30 km/h while walking or cycling, you only have a five-per-cent chance of dying. At 40 km/h, the chance of dying rises 50 per cent; at 60 km/h, it’s 95 per cent.

There is a direct correlation between speed and the ability to visually register objects when travelling faster than 30 km/h. The aperture is large while going 10–15 km /h but gradually reduces as speed increases and is barely visible at 45-plus km/h.

Informed with this information, do you feel safe walking and cycling in the Glebe where drivers speed and do not fully stop at stop signs? If we are not aware of the repercussions of our actions, we cannot make change. My hope is we can all work together to keep our community safe.

Sheila Vaselenak lives in the Glebe and is passionate about liveable connected cities, urban modality and her community. She is a classically trained musician who runs workshops for clarinet students.

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