Waterloo to reduce speed limits to 30 km/h on city streets

Waterloo will reduce speed limits on city streets to 30 km/h.

In a 5-3 vote, councillors approved the move Monday during a council meeting.

Staff had recommended lowering speed limits from 50 km/h to 40 km/h on most streets with a drop to 30 km/h around schools, but Ward 2 Coun. Royce Bodaly introduced a motion to lower limits on collector and residential streets to 30 km/h.

“In short, it works,” Bodaly said of lowering speed limits to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety.

“Somebody going 75 km/h in front of a neighbourhood park or a school or just on any residential street, in my opinion, they should be subject to a stunt driving charge, and they would be if we went to 30, but would not if we went to 40.”

He said he’d like to see Waterloo “drive the culture change” on city streets and accept a Feb., 2020 Stockholm Declaration on Road Safety recommendation to lower speed limits to 30 km/h globally.

Jason Thistlethwaite, who is co-president of the Uptown West Neighbourhood Association, told councillors the association did consultations with residents and people were supportive of the idea of lowering speed limits.

“Reduction to 30 km/h made sense as a deterrent against excessive speed. People felt that there was a difference between driving 60 in a 40 zone and 60 and a 30 zone,” he told council.

“The overwhelming response was the slower, the better.”

Hard decision for council: Mayor

Ward 4 Coun. Angela Vieth said 30 km/h is “too inhibiting, too slow” and did not support Bodaly’s motion.

She said the city needs to be consistent with Kitchener, which has lowered speed limits to 40 km, and that there are other ways to slow vehicles down.

“I think if we’re animating the sidewalks, if we have interesting front yards and and we allow kids to play hockey or to walk on the street if they have to,” Vieth said. “Add more activities rather than putting up signs all over the place.”

Mayor Dave Jaworsky also voted against the motion and explained after the vote that a split vote of council “is simply an indicator of how hard the decision actually was for council.”

He said his vote was to make sure for the next term of council “which will have a number of fresh faces,” the decision would be more “palatable.”

“You never know what next council might do,” he said.

Waterloo is not alone to drop speed limits to 30 km/h. Banff, Alta., did it earlier this year and Ottawa lowered some streets in 2017.

Staff will now work on a plan to phase in implementation over the next four years. It will cost an estimated $500,000 to changeover signs, a cost that will be brought before the new council when capital budget deliberations for 2023 get underway late this year.

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