Spring 2021 could bring with it new speed limits in downtown Whitehorse.
At Whitehorse city council’s Feb. 15 meeting, members were presented with a report detailing plans that could potentially see speed limits reduced from 50 km/hr to 40 km/hr along Second and Fourth avenues and 30 km/hr on all other downtown streets. A bylaw for the changes is proposed to come forward in the spring.
The report follows a campaign in December and January to let the public know of the potential changes that came after possibilities for speed reduction were considered.
In a presentation to council at the Feb. 15 meeting, city engineer Stefan Baer highlighted the impact the changes could have on the city.
The decreased speed limits are anticipated to have a negligible effect on travel times for personal vehicles or for transit.
It’s also expected lower speeds would result in fewer severe injuries and fatalities for all road users.
The speed reduction “is anticipated to reduce drivers’ stopping distance, increase their field of vision, and reduce the severity and impact of collisions, which results in a reduction in the probability of sustaining a serious life-altering injury or death,” Baer said in his report.
“Without the protection of a vehicular structure, active transportation users have a significantly lower threshold for absorbing impact sustained in a collision. Thus, speed limit changes are anticipated to yield disproportional benefits to active transportation users.”
Baer went on to highlight the benefits for both older road users and children with lower speeds reducing the potential for injuries.
Also cited were the impacts to “members of (equity-seeking groups) as defined by the Government of Canada” such as women, Indigenous people, visible minorities and people with disabilities.
Baer said the changes are not expected to have negative impacts on those groups.
“On the contrary, regulatory speed limits are anticipated to yield net positive impacts to members of equity seeking groups, especially people with disabilities,” his report noted.
During the communications campaign on the changes, more than 40 emails from residents were received.
“As expected, public response towards the proposed changes was very mixed with many supporting the proposed changes and many opposing,” he said. “Most comments received related to support for the proposed changes (and support for even more comprehensive road safety improvements), questions regarding enforcement and questions regarding the effectiveness of the proposed changes.”
Asked by councillors Samson Hartland and Dan Boyd for a more detailed breakdown of the public feedback, Baer said he would provide that before the bylaw change comes forward.
Hartland also commented that he’s heard from a number of people that Whitehorse needs to be more vehicle-friendly and argued it’s important to find ways to make it more vehicle-friendly.
Both councillors Laura Cabott and Steve Roddick, meanwhile, said they were pleased to see the equity analysis that was done with Cabott adding after much work on the possibilities, it’s time to proceed to the next step.
“We’re ready to move forward,” she said.
The amendment to the traffic bylaw will now be prepared and presented to council with adoption anticipated for the spring. In addition, a budget change is also anticipated to come forward that would cover the cost of implementing the change should council approve the bylaw.
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