Road safety plan sets sights on reducing injuries, deaths by 20%

It's not quite "Vision Zero," but the latest investment in Ottawa's push toward safer roads for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers is a step in the right direction, Mayor Jim Watson said Monday.

"This plan aims to continue progress towards zero fatalities or major injuries on our roadways, and has a goal of reducing by 20 per cent the average annual rate of fatal and major injury collisions by 2024," Watson announced at the corner of Gladstone Avenue and Bay Streets, where new traffic lights will soon be installed.

The city will invest $31.5 million investment over the next four years, beginning in 2020, including a one-time cash infusion of $4 million for various infrastructure improvements.

The Road Safety Action Plan 2020 – 2024 identifies four major priorities:

  • Vulnerable road users.
  • Intersections.
  • Rural areas.
  • High-risk drivers.

Speed limits will be reduced in some residential areas, where new or rebuilt roads will be designed with a 30 km/h speed limit in mind.

Jean Delisle/CBC

In rural area, the focus will be on curbing speeders and improving road conditions, said Coun. Stephen Blais, chair of the city's transportation committee.

"We're going to be doing advanced indications for stopping, with advanced road paint and larger, blinking signs," Blais said. 

Phil Landry, the city's director of traffic services, said his department is looking at low-cost solutions to improve cycling safety at 10 intersections, including a $400,000 redesign of the intersection of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue W.

"Moving forward, we're going to be building cycle tracks so that cyclists aren't next to traffic, they're separated," Landry said.

A push for vision zero

On Monday, Ottawa-based advocacy group Vision Zero Canada urged the city to look further than a 20 per cent reduction.

"The acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads is zero," said Graham Larkin, Vision Zero Canada's executive director. Over the last five years, Ottawa saw an average of 24 fatal collisions a year, the city says.

David Richard/CBC

Vision Zero refers to the goal of reducing deaths and injuries on roadways to none, and usually involves a massive shift in the way cities set traffic rules and build infrastructure to keep pedestrians and cyclists largely separate from vehicles.

For Larkin, it's about making the municipality responsible for ensuring roadways are safe as opposed to seeing road safety as a shared responsibility.

"I think we should be talking about crashes and collisions and portraying all of these incidents as predictable and preventable," he said.

"[Vision Zero means] designing out the conflict so that when someone does make a mistake no one gets harmed."

The road safety action plan will be put before the city's transportation committee Dec. 4, then on to city council Dec. 11.

Jean Delisle/CBC