Monday, January 5, 2009

What I Learn Today about Road Safety

Good day, so I just got out of a driver’s training class that was put on by the British Columbia Safety Council at my work. It covers all the basics of safe driving, plus the environmental impact of driving. Anyway, I got talking with the instructor of the course (he used to work at ICBC and has friends in the Ministry of Transportation).

I first wanted to know his thoughts about road geometry, speed, and safety. As you might know, I have some issues with the way the Ministry of Transportation builds roads as do local transportation engineers. If you build a road like a freeway it doesn’t matter what posted speed you have, human nature is such that people will drive at what they think is comfortable. He agreed with this statement and added that people in the MoT know how to build roads with modern standards like narrower lanes to slow traffic to a safe level, but it is political interference that prevents the ministry from being truly innovative. He also said that Europe is light years ahead in traffic safety and road design. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is a perfect example of a project that turned from a 4 lane road to a freeway due to the political process. As it stands, the Ministry of Transportation's mandate is to get as many car, as fast a possible, through an area with little regard to context (urban compared to rural.) If we want to see a modern Ministry of Transportation that treats all modes of travel equally and understands the complexity of the urban environment, it will have to come direct from the BC Minister of Transportation. Anyway, here is an interesting chart about pedestrian fatalities. It is no wonder that the City of Vancouver is lobbying for 40km/h speeds on local streets. These reasons are why I’m a firm believer of the complete road concept.

Pedestrian Collisions

At 30km/hour only 2.5% of pedestrians are killed
At 50km/hour about 20% of pedestrians are killed
At 55km/hour about 50% of pedestrians are killed
At 65km/hour about 90% of pedestrians are killed

Source: Ashton and Mackay 1979, European Traffic Safety Commission 1995, Department of Transport (UK) – New directions in speed management: a review of policy


Unknown said...

Your posting makes no sense. You appear to be comparing residential side streets to highways. The two don’t compare.

Designing and building residential side streets to promote slower speeds, and even lowering the speed limit on side streets to 40 km/h, is a completely appropriate measure for the context of a residential side street.

But you seem to be suggesting that the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is a highway, and a badly needed one at that, should be built to the speed standard of a residential side street. That doesn’t make any sense. Are you really suggesting this?!!

Nathan Pachal said...

You’re right, residential side street and arterials roads two different things. The SFPR shouldn’t be 40km/hour. The road’s speed limit will be set to 80km/hour for a host of good reason. The problem with the road is that it will be designed as a freeway with freeway standards. I will guarantee that most people will be going 100 km/hour. This is not good for efficient, safety, or the environment. If the province wants people to be going 80km/hour, they shouldn’t be building a freeway. BTW, many of the hundreds of people that are losing there homes and the farmers losing 1,000 acres of prime land don’t thing the SFPR road is a good idea. Considering that there are alternatives…

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