Colonel By Drive and Queen Elizabeth Driveway Are Now Slower, But Is That Better?

John Dance

We received about 100 comments from residents who expressed strongly held but varying opinions on the reduction of the speed limit on the Rideau Canal parkways from 60 down to 40 kilometres/hour.

In September, the National Capital Commission (NCC) reduced the speed limit on the Rideau Canal parkways. Residents’ reactions to the change vary from strongly opposed to strongly supportive, with many in the middle, saying the speed limit should have been reduced from 60 kilometres/hour (km/h) to 50 rather than to 40. Regardless of residents’ opinions, the NCC intends to keep the lower speed limit.

“Overall, the parkway and pathway users have been receptive to the change, [and] the NCC will continue to work towards improving the experience of users as well as to improving safety,” says NCC spokesperson Sofia Benjelloun.

“This new change will ensure a uniform speed limit along these corridors, and increase safety on the parkways,” the NCC posted on its website. “It will also make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to access the Rideau Canal and surrounding pathways. With this change, the NCC hopes to continue improving the overall experience for all parkway and pathway users by increasing accessibility and safety.”

Through the Old Ottawa East (OOE) Grapevine Facebook group, The Mainstreeter sought residents’ perspectives on the speed limit change. About 100 people took the time to express their opinion and make observations, including that the reduced speed limit has meant fewer squirrels have been run over.

“I can’t wrap my head around 40 km/h on Colonel By Drive (CBD) or the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (QED),” wrote Leslie McDermott. “It’s hard to drive that slow. It doesn’t make sense because Colonel By is not a residential street. It’s a way in and out of the City. It’s not the Queensway, so 60 was fine.”

In contrast, Lorna Kingston wrote, “I really like the 40 km/h speed limit. I can actually enjoy the beauty of this driveway at 40km/h.”

Former Old Ottawa East resident Leslie McDermott says it doesn’t make sense that the Colonel By Drive speed limit has been lowered to 40 kilometres/hour. Others feel it’s a real improvement. Photo by John Dance

Former Old Ottawa East resident Leslie McDermott says it doesn’t make sense that the Colonel By Drive speed limit has been lowered to 40 kilometres/hour. Others feel it’s a real improvement. Photo by John Dance

“It seems unnecessarily low,” commented Jeff Brown. “I thought 60 was fine but, if they were to lower it, 50 makes more sense, unless they want a limit so low no-one will respect it.”

Key reasons many respondents cited for keeping the old speed limit included: the roadway is designed for faster speeds with very few residences along it and few access points; and drivers are going to go fast regardless of the speed limit, particularly because there is, they argued, little police enforcement.

On the “pro” side, Sue Somerset noted that the Australian Academy of Science found that “(r)educing the impact speed from 60 to 50 km/h almost halves the likelihood of death but has relatively little influence on the likelihood of injury, which remains close to 100 per cent. Reducing the speed to 40 km/hr … reduces the likelihood of death by a factor of four compared with 60 km/h, and of course the likelihood of injury of an impact is also dramatically reduced.” Somerset concluded her post, “We’ve prioritized car driving in city centres far too long.”

Susan Redding, a member of the Parkways for People advocacy group, cited the NCC mandate for the parkways as justification for the new speed limit: “Under the Plan for Canada’s Capital, the NCC will preserve the intended character of parkways as low-density, low-volume, slow-speed scenic routes in park-type settings, and will create a set of riverfront parks. In some cases, the connectivity of parkways with local roads renders them de facto commuter routes, though this is not their intended function. The NCC will accordingly continue to discuss ways of limiting this unintended use with the relevant authorities.”

The RCMP data on speed limit enforcement over the June – November period shows the number of “provincial offences and warnings” has increased since the speed limit was reduced.

Over a five-and-a-half-month period ending November 17, the RCMP issued 34 “notices and warnings” to drivers on the QED and 221 to drivers on CBD. It’s not clear whether the far greater number of tickets to Colonel By drivers is a result of more traffic on CBD than on QED, or that drivers are more likely to speed on CBD, or that there was more enforcement on CBD.

In October, the first full month of the new speed limits, there was a total of 67 “notices and warnings” issued to drivers on the two parkways versus a total of 35 in August, the last full month of the higher speed limit.

The RCMP cautioned The Mainstreeter not to draw any conclusions based solely on the statistics they provided. “The QED is often times subject to road closures for active use and events, especially during the summer months. Furthermore, there are many variables that affect the number of documented traffic enforcement. The statistics provided are for the whole roadway of CBD and QED and not specific to the 40km/h zone.”

In the course of the Facebook debate, a number of respondents noted the problem of pedestrian – cyclist -motorist conflicts on the parkways and adjacent pathways. They suggested that other measures are required to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Filed in: Front Page

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