Sipping my morning cup of tea, I read with interest Mr. Ted Clark’s letter to the editor in the December 21st issue of the Free Press. Titled “Grant speed limit is result of spurious reasoning”, it brought home, once again, how far we still have to go in our thinking in Winnipeg.
Engineers have been tied to the “85th percentile” defence for decades and use it to justify increasing speed limits or turning down community requests to reduce speed limits. Trouble is, it’s a circular argument.
The speed at which motorists travel is primarily influenced by road design. A street that is wide, straight and flat encourages driving faster. To argue that the speed at which 85% of motorists are travelling at (or below) on a road is therefore reasonable and acceptable is an argument that feeds itself. It does not take into account adjacent land uses or other road users, such as pedestrians from surrounding houses and apartment buildings crossing Grant to reach the shopping centre or students walking or cycling to Grant Park High School.
OurWinnipeg, the City’s new long-term vision, recognizes the critical connection between land use and transportation. I suspect that it was an early acknowledgment of this connection that compelled councillors and the provincial highway traffic board to set a 50-km/h speed limit on Grant.
If motorists are driving above the desired speed limit because the road design encourages it, the answer should be to address road design. Maybe we’ll get there someday but right now the road ahead looks pretty long (not to mention wide, straight and flat).