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Niagara Falls
Monday, February 26, 2024
Editorial: Council needs to act on speed limits
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

Niagara-on-the-Lake residents have a tradition of loudly – and repeatedly ­– telling town councillors and officials what’s best for the town.

People are passionate and engaged on issues affecting where they live.

The Friends of Ryerson Park is a passionate and engaged group. But its leaders have spent three years quietly and professionally working with the town to get something done about excessive speeding on the streets and narrow laneways of the Chautauqua neighbourhood (where there are no sidewalks or road shoulders).

The group is led by three professional individuals – Brian Crow, Shaun Devlin and John Scott ­– who as a result of a great deal of research now have some expertise on issues related to speeding and residential safety.

They’ve played along with the town’s leaders and when senior staff urged them to compile a report – because town staff have the very real problem of not enough time or people – the Friends complied.

As our Page 1 story outlines this week, they have looked at what more than 10 other municipalities (some in Niagara) have found (through studies) and determined that a 10 to 15 km/h speed reduction is needed on NOTL’s residential streets (or at a minimum in Chautauqua).

They did the grunt work for the town – at the town’s suggestion. And they’ve shared the results over the past few months, so the town should be well aware of the data.

It was enough to convince all those other towns and cities to act.

Last week when the Friends were told they had been bumped from presenting their findings to council, well, that was the final straw.

This is not a new issue. Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa told The Lake Report last April that excessive speeding concerns were “widespread” in NOTL and he’d asked town staff to look into the situation.

“We’ll get some actual hard numbers on that. We’ll have some recommendations, including various measures, which could include adjusting speed limits,” he said.

So, what happened? Nothing official, it seems.

There wasn’t a directive from council and we do understand that town staff have a lot on their collective plates. But who doesn’t these days?

Here we are eight months later and the town says it is hoping a rural and urban street safety study is approved in the 2024 budget. With all due respect, that sounds like needlessly reinventing the wheel and it could just delay action even further.

Here’s an idea: If council is not prepared to use its power to declare 40 km/h the new default residential speed limit on municipal roads across all of NOTL, then use Chautauqua as a pilot project (as the Friends have suggested).

Post signs reducing the limit to 35 or 40 km/h in the neighbourhood and see if the sky does indeed fall.

We’re betting it won’t.

As for those who wonder, “What about enforcement?” – well, that argument is a red herring in our view. Because no one enforces the limit now. Niagara Regional Police won’t bother to assign officers to run radar on Shakespeare or Vincent or any other residential street under any circumstances.

But signs warning drivers of the new limit will grab drivers’ attention. And the town can use monitors to gather data on what effect the change has.

So, please Mr. Lord Mayor and town council, use your power and act ASAP. We don’t need another study or a made-in-NOTL solution on this issue.

Just do it.

Let’s make it your top New Year’s resolution.

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