Nova Scotia

Province urged to give municipalities power to post speed limits under 50km/h

A cycling advocacy group and one devoted to green transportation are both calling on the Nova Scotia government to give municipalities to power to set speed limits slower than 50 kilometre an hour.

'Even a small reduction in speed reduces the severity of an injury in a collision,' says Ecology Action Centre

A busy downtown street is full of cars on a sunny day.
Municipalities must currently apply to the province in order to post speed limits slower than 50 kilometres an hour. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC)

A cycling lobby group and another that promotes active transportation both urged the Nova Scotia government Tuesday to give municipalities the power to post speed limits slower than 50 kilometres an hour.

Bicycle Nova Scotia and the Ecology Action Centre want the proposed Traffic Safety Act amended to include the provision, so municipalities will no longer be forced to apply to the province to lower speed limits on individual roads.

But the motion put forward by New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender to do that was defeated Tuesday by the Liberal majority on the law amendments committee.

That was after Bicycle Nova Scotia's Ben Buckwold made his plea.

"We believe that it would be much more reasonable for municipalities intimately engaged with those design issues and have the greater familiarity with their communities to be granted the power and the responsibility to set the speed limits accordingly and appropriately," he told the committee members.

"We do not believe that it's reasonable that a road could be posted at 50 km/hour when in fact the safe travel speed along that road is 30 or less."

1 request in 5 years

The Traffic Safety Act will replace the Motor Vehicle Act and is a rewrite of the rules of the road in Nova Scotia. It includes new provisions aimed at protecting cyclists, pedestrians and emergency workers, and clarifying rules around distracted driving.

The Department of Transportation said that in the last five years just one municipality — the Halifax Regional Municipality — has formally requested to drop the speed limit below 50 km/h on an individual road.

The amount of time it takes to make a decision depends on the nature of what's being requested, how many streets and what information is initially provided, according to a department spokesperson.

The Ecology Action Centre's Kelsey Lane told the law amendments committee that lower speed limits improve the awareness and reaction times of drivers.

"It also reduces the distance a vehicle needs to stop while minimizing the risk that a collision will occur in the first place," Lane said. "Even a small reduction in speed reduces the severity of an injury in a collision."

She quoted statistics from the World Health Organization to show her point. She said a pedestrian who is hit by a car travelling at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of survival, but that drops to 20 per cent when the vehicle is travelling 50 km/h.

Kelsey Lane of the Ecology Action Centre speaks to the Nova Scotia Legislature's law amendments committee on Tuesday. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Despite that testimony the Liberal members on the committee refused to change the provision in Bill 80, which maintains the current power of the province to control speed limits, even on municipal roads.

Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire said there was nothing wrong with the current practice of having municipalities apply to the province for lower speed limits.

"This isn't a 'no,'" he told reporters after the vote. "It's just a show us why, where and how.

"We'll listen to the municipalities and move forward with them on a case-by-case basis."

Chender dismissed Maguire's reasoning.

"It's utterly disappointing and totally unsurprising," she told reporters after the meeting.

"This government is unwilling to throw even the smallest bone on the biggest of acts," she said. "They don't want to take any suggestions as good as they may be."

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia