Wednesday, July 18, 2012

School Zone speeds

I am mostly needing to rant and a 140 character tweet just wasn't going to cut it.

Just this morning a motion was put forward to reduce the speeds in school zones to 40km/hr; and then another motion to reduce ALL residential streets to 40km/hr. None of this is news as such, discussions have been ongoing in the papers for a little while about this concept. There have been some good responses to this that I have seen, however I don't remember where, so sorry, no links - if I paraphrase what you wrote somewhere else, please forgive me.

So, first of all, does this seriously mean that they are wanting to lower stretches of major arteries like Grant, Pembina and Henderson to 40 near schools? Grant is already ridiculous enough being set at 50 - it's two lanes with a boulevard in the middle - why on earth is it 50 in the first place, it should be 60.

While I'm ranting, why on earth is the freaking number one HIGHWAY 70km/hr when the residential strip of Roblin in the same section (roughly the perimeter to Headingley) 80km/hr??

So, my proposition is this: since, as someone else already put it (somewhere) - perhaps 40 on residential streets wouldn't be the worst thing in the world due to the condition of our roads, lets say that any street that has two lanes in either direction must be at least 50 (school zone or not) and if those two lanes have a boulevard in the middle? Well, then it would be a 60km/hr zone.

I don't know how many children are injured near schools every year, but I do know that children are freaking everywhere not just near schools. Never mind the fact that the two options would then make the speed enforceable only during "school hours" (sorry kids with after school activities, no safety for you!) which would involve a lot of confusing signage, OR enforceable ALL the time, which would mean cash grabs galore as photo radar would be set up nabbing speed demons clocking 51km/hr on a Saturday night.

How about we teach kids about street safety instead? When I was growing up it was impressed upon me to look out for cars, that they couldn't stop on a dime. To this day, even after I push the crosswalk button (or especially at crosswalks without the lights) I wait until I make eye contact with the drivers of the oncoming cars, or at least confirm that they're slowing down for me, before I head out into the street. I constantly see people push the button and blindly walk out into the street; yes, technically people are allowed to do that, as drivers we are supposed to be scanning ahead for that sort of thing. Of course, if you end up dead, being right doesn't do you much good.


  1. As far as I know, they are looking at reducing the speed limit in school zones that are not on regional streets (like Grant, Pembina and Henderson). So don't worry about those major streets!

    The motion to reduce the speed limit to 40 km/h on all residential streets is actually for all local residential streets, not collector streets and arterial streets that happen to have houses on them.

    Those definitions may be fine points that only engineers can love, but they are pretty integral to fully understanding what is being proposed.

  2. Former Headingley person here..

    The short section from Headingley to the perimeter (the 70 km/h bit) is actually fairly special. It is (was?) the most dangerous portion of the Trans Canada highway in Canada (no idea about the metric used).

    Lots and lots of uncontrolled access. This involved many large highway trucks more or less stopped on the highway going to and from the Husky. Four lanes, no median. Me and my classmates were part of the problem. The school bus would stop on the highway and turn on the flashers. Witnessing someone rear end a stopped car would always add a bit of excitement and drama to an otherwise dull day. The bus itself was only hit once, lightly.

    The government reacted by lowering the speed limit in stages. I guess 70 with large red flags on the signs was magic (that works out to 80 km/h per the local custom).

    There was (is?) an initiative to reroute the highway north of all this (it would of went right past my front door!). Dunno about the current plan. Some improvements have been made to the existing road.

    The MSN Autos entry on the road in question can be found here:

  3. Clearly I have been violating my own resolution again and reading too many comments on the FreeP and Sun as I was far too taken aback by two thoughtful comments!

    @Concerned - thanks for the clarification (although I would still love to know the exact definition of the different street types if you have time!). Although, this of course begs the question, are children who go to school on major streets in less need of protection? How is that logical? Don't get me wrong, I would become murderous if I had to slow to that on major streets, but why is it not deemed necessary there??

    @bwalzer - I should have made myself more clear to my position, but thank you for giving any non-local readers more info than I did, I think the stretch of Roblin should also be 70km/hr. There are many houses as well as quite a few businesses on either side of the road, and with only one lane in either direction, vehicles slowing down for a turn are also a danger in this 80km/hr zone. Roblin is also a popular route for cyclists which seems a recipe for disaster.

  4. @Winnipeg Girl: Yeah, the exact definition of each of those street types is a bit vague, and there's not much available on the City website. I only know from several years of experience as an engineer in the transportation field, not because there is a good resource available. From what I understand, the City is working on developing a more comprehensive street classification system, so that should clear things up once they finish that.

    Basically though, a Regional Street just means a street that serves the whole city (or a large portion of the city) by carrying traffic between regions. That designation is based on a street's function (i.e. what it actually does) rather than what it was designed for. Most Regional Streets are Arterials and a few are Collectors. The Regional Street designation has a lot to do with how the City funds their maintenance and construction.

    Local, Collector and Arterial classifications are based on what the street was designed to do (i.e. how much traffic it can carry, at what speed, and what you should or should not be able to access directly from the street). The definitions can get a bit muddy though, because for example, older arterials like Henderson and Main have many homes and businesses that you can access right off of them via driveways ("private approaches" in engineer-speak, whereas that is not allowed on newer arterials like Bishop Grandin and Sterling Lyon. The street width and pavement thickness I described in my previous comment are important parts of this street classification.

    I'm guessing the reason that the school zone speed restrictions would not apply to schools on major streets is because those streets generally have other provisions in place to separate children from the traffic, like wider lanes, wider boulevards, sidewalks, large building setbacks and intersections controlled by traffic signals.

  5. There is so much to say about the school zones, I wouldn't know where to start. The biggest problems are inadequate signing of the zones and poor speed signing. I covered this to great detail in my report:

    It's also 30 km/h that they want to make the school zones; not 40 km/h. I have included a lot of research on the reduced speeds in part 6 of the report.

  6. They're not going to be unsigned as far as I know. I can't see how that's possible. Those reduced speeds are going to be a disaster and a ticketing frenzy for many reasons.

    1 - They are going to apply through the entire day and even on non school days. Studies have proven that reduced speeds should only be used over lunch and when kids are entering or leaving the school and of coarse only on school days.

    2 - The limit is too low. 30 km/h speed zones around schools are notorious for not being complied with simply because when kids are not around, they are not necessary. When Saskatoon reduced the speeds around schools, the 85th percentile speed stayed at 44 km/h. This is good news for photo radar, but actually increases the speed differences and makes the zones less safe.

    3 - Other cities use 40 km/h limits. In our neighboring provinces, considering population size, 98% of cities that have reduced speeds in school zones have a 40 km/h limit when they are active and only during the shorter hours mentioned above.

    4 - Too many of them. Winnipeg is reducing the speed at all school zones. Other cities use a warrant criteria to identify where reduced speeds are needed. For example, in Ottawa, following the warrant criteria, 25% of schools have reduced limits compared to the 100% we're going to have in Winnipeg.

    5 - Do not increase safety. Numerous studies have proven that reducing the speed around schools does not effect the safety. Edmonton which does not have reduced speeds around schools found that they have 15% less collisions involving elementary aged children compared to Calgary which does have reduced speeds. Because of this, Calgary is considering getting rid of reduced speeds.

    6 - Collisions don't happen in school zones. It has been found that school zones are already areas of heightened awareness and during school times, are self regulating due to congestion. The Edmonton study found that almost all collisions involving children happen outside of the zone where children are not expected. In school zones, these limits further increase congestion and cause more problems.

    7 - No flashing lights. Manitoba is only going to use regular signs with tabs on them. Studies have found that reducing the speed in school zones is only effective if the signs have a flashing light that indicates when the zone is in use. Considering population size, in our neighboring provinces, 95% of cities use flashing lights on their signs.

    8 - No data to support it. Winnipeg has absolutely no collision data to indicate a need for any changes in school zones. School zone collisions are already so rare that MPI doesn't even have a section in their collision reports for them.

    It is very apparent that this is all about making money and they get away with it by hiding behind the claim that it'll make children safer. As you can see, it won't and may even do more harm than good. Everyone who reads this, please comment and say what you think. If Winnipeg cares about children, they should be properly signing the already existent limits around schools and especially the speed reductions where the signing is terrible.