Montreal councillor launches bid to finally reduce speed limit on Van Horne Avenue
Celia Ait Ouazzou says traffic on Van Horne Avenue in Montreal's west end can get moving fast enough that it's unsafe for pedestrians.
"Especially that there are a lot of children here, so it's really dangerous for them," she said.
She shops on the street and frequents a nearby gym. It would be safer for everybody if motorists were forced to slow down, she said.
And that's exactly why Sonny Moroz, the city councillor for the Snowdon district in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is putting forward a motion at the borough council calling for the speed to be reduced from 50 km/h to 40, as has been done on other parts of the street.
In Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Outremont, the standard speed is 40 km/h, he explained. There is one section in front of a school where it drops to 30 at certain times, he said.
"The intention really is to eliminate this incoherence of going 40 for a part of Van Horne, then 30, then 50, then back to 40," said Moroz.
"The inconsistency leads to acceleration and deceleration and we are trying to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the road."
Studies have shown that the risk of a pedestrian or cyclist dying in a collision is only 10 per cent when the speed limit is 30 km/h. The risk jumps to 75 per cent when the speed limit is 50.
Recognizing this, there has been a citywide push for a number of years to reduce the speed limit on all residential streets to 30 km/h and on most arterial streets to 40 km/h.
Van Horne Avenue was on a list of streets slated for a slowdown back in 2018 under former borough mayor Sue Montgomery. But nothing changed in the years since.
Moroz said he has asked about this several times, but with nothing getting done, he opted to table a motion instead.
Borough mayor supports motion
Moroz is with Ensemble Montréal, city hall's official opposition party. He said Darlington district Coun. Stephanie Valenzuela, also with Ensemble, supports his motion, which will be voted on during the regular borough council meeting Wednesday.
The three other councillors are with Projet Montréal, as is the mayor, Gracia Kasoki Katahwa.
Katahwa told Radio-Canada she supports reducing the speed limit on Van Horne and she won't stand in the way of the motion.
But posting new speed limits is only the first step toward making streets safer, according to Sandrine Cabana-Degani, general director of the pedestrian advocacy group, Pietons Québec.
"We also know that it must be accompanied with a change in street design," she said, because simply lowering the speed limit has a minimal impact on how fast people drive.
On large streets like Van Horne, speed humps aren't an option, she said, but the road can be made narrower, with fewer lanes, and safety can also be beefed up at intersections.
"Narrowing the street and reducing the number of lanes is the best way to send the message that we need to reduce speed," said Cabana-Degani.
20 pedestrian deaths in 2022
According to preliminary numbers from the Montreal police, there were 20 pedestrian fatalities in the city in 2022. Another 70 people were seriously injured.
"We have to do everything we can to get to zero," said Moroz, who is pushing for more uniformity when it comes to traffic-calming measures and speed limits.
Speed humps may not be an option for Van Horne, he said, but there are other ways to slow drivers.
He said there are several streets and intersections in Côte-des-Neiges—NDG that need improvement, but it's not always up to the borough to decide what is done in certain areas.
For example, he said, one residential street might have loads of speed humps, but the next won't because it is a bus route.
Motorists then zip down the bus routes, he said. In some cases, streets, such as arterial roads, are managed by centre city. In other cases, he said, provincial regulations can get in the way of measures that could help slow drivers down.
He would like to see road safety improvements throughout the borough, but for now, he said, Van Horne Avenue's speed limit needs to be reduced.
"You cannot speed at 50 km/h on Van Horne," Moroz said.