Slow Down and Save Lives – 30 is the New 50

Image: copenhagenize.com


Motor vehicle speed reduction is a critical component of the BCCC’s comprehensive Cycling Strategy for BC that includes Cycling Safety Through Collision Reduction.


For people walking and cycling, motor vehicle speed is the major threat. Vision Zero - An ethical approach to safety and mobility, pioneered in Sweden, is a philosophy of road safety that eventually no one will be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system. They recommend a maximum speed of 30km/h at locations with possible conflict between pedestrians and cars which in many cities, would be pretty much all the streets. It acknowledges that people driving cars and walking will make mistakes and these mistakes should not result in people dying. The best way to do that is to lower speeds.


Higher speeds both increases the likelihood of collisions and increase the severity of collisions. Safe Kids Canada states that regarding pedestrian safety:

At speeds greater than 30-40 km/h, both drivers and pedestrians may be more likely to make mistakes in judging the time required to stop or cross the street safely.1 In addition, drivers are known to underestimate their speed.2 Reducing vehicle speed has proven to be effective in preventing crashes and reducing the severity of injuries.3

Even small reductions in vehicle speed can yield significant reductions in injury risk. It is estimated that a pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 50 km/hr is eight times more likely to be killed than someone hit at 30 km/h.4

As shown in the following graphs from The Impact of Lowered Speed Limits in Urban and Metropolitan Areas by J. Acher et al, the research is very compelling.
In the BBC article, 20mph speed zones cut road injuries by 40%, study says, Dr Chris Grundy, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that 20mph (32 km/h) zones in London would save 200 lives a year, increasing to 700 if the zones were extended.
Not surprisingly, lower speeds also correspond to higher levels of cycling. Cities in Europe with 30 km/h speed limits have cycling mode shares from between 25% and 30% compared to 2% to 3% in British cities. The Copenhagenize 30 km/h Zones Work is worth a read.

Strasbourg is lowering speeds throughout the city to 30km/h to improve safety of cyclists and pedestrians and as stated by the Mayor:

The public roads no longer belong to automobiles alone. They must be reimagined to be redistributed in a fairer manner between all forms of transportation. The protection of the most vulnerable is thus reinforced in zones in which all users have access but in which the pedestrian is king.

30 km/h Zones in Barcelona Photo: w3.bcn.es


Barcelona has already had encouraging results by lowering speed limits to 30 km/hr on 300km of single lane roads.  Their pilot project reduced injuries by 30%. They are now lowering speeds on all single lane streets to 30 km/hr. Thanks to Ryan Mijker for passing this example on.


In BC, we still have a ways to go. Municipalities across the province have repeatedly requested that the Province allow them to set blanket speed limits below 50 km/h. Given the lack of provincial action, the only option left to cities is to place 30 km/h signs on every block of a street which can be expensive and time consuming. Fortunately, the City of Vancouver is in the process of doing exactly this on bikeways. As well, in December 2011, the City of Burnaby adopted the recommendation for the trial installation of 30 km/h speed limit signs along sections of existing bikeways in two neighbourhoods.


Reducing vehicle speeds will also require traffic calming, education and enforcement but 30 km/h speed limits are the critical first step. It sends a clear message that people’s lives are more important than probably getting there a couple of minutes sooner. Emphasis on probably. A collision that is preventable by going slower may mean that they don’t arrive at all or at least delayed for hours at the scene.


Take Action

Please write Hon. Christy Clark [email protected]  and urge the province step up and allow municipalities to set blanket speed limits below 50 km/h. After all, making streets safer for children is very family friendly.

Please cc your MLA. You can find their email address at: http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm
As well, cc:
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected] ca

The City of Victoria is taking forward a motion to the Union Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) asking for a default speed limit of 40km/h down from the current  50km/h. Please encourage your city council to support this motion.

WHEREAS local governments are concerned about resident safety on municipal streets, and lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of injuries to pedestrians in vehicle/pedestrian collisions;

AND WHEREAS consistent province-wide speed limits promote driver awareness and ease enforcement between municipalities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM lobby the Province of British Columbia to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to limit the default speed limit on a highway in a municipality to 40 km and allocate implementation funds to assist municipalities in installing signage for higher speeds where appropriate.

This entry was posted in Campaigns.