Several council meetings ago, there was an item about speed limits in school zones. Can you believe that people are so reckless while driving that we have to fine tune the speed limits in the areas around schools? I can.
This was back at the May meeting of Committee-of-the-Whole, staff brought back a report that said an experiment to reduce speed limits in schools zone to 30 kilometres per hour had a negligible, or minor, impact on driver speeds as compared to the old 40-kilometre limit. Staff recommended returning all school zone limits to 40, but council, by a decisive majority, felt that when it comes to kids and their safety, slower is better.
Mayor Cam Guthrie and other councillors noted the surprising perils of dropping their kids off at school, or otherwise just witnessing the lead feet of many Guelph drivers on the gas pedal around their own neighbourhoods. Typically, one doesn’t put much stock in anecdotal evidence, but in the case of bad drivers in Guelph, I don’t think you see it until you’re out and about on your own two feet.
Even big kids feel the danger. I, myself, had to be especially cautious walking home from work down Silvercreek Pkwy N. back when I worked on Woodlawn Rd and left the office around 3 p.m. That, as you might have guessed, is an especially busy time to be walking down that street because the first shift ends at all those factories in the north end, and there isn’t a sidewalk along that road till you get to Speedvale Ave.
Now if walking’s your life, then you’re used to sharing the road no matter the volume of traffic, but it’s kind of hard to walk on the dirt and pebbles at the side of the road when sometimes people think it’s a passing lane. When traffic lines up at the stop light at Speedvale and Silvercreek, creative drivers realize they can beat the lights by driving through the parking lot on the northwest corner of the intersection.
Of course, by “creative”, I mean “dangerous” and possibly rule-breaking. I’m not sure turning the space between the road and the grass into a turning lane for you drive into one entrance of a plaza and come out the other to avoid a long line at a red light is explicitly illegal, but I know that The Fast and Furious is fictional and not a educational film for student drivers of all ages.
In so much as we all appreciate the virtue of a short cut, I have a feeling that when that plaza was designed, it was so that people would have an easier time accessing the Mr. Sub there, and not have an easier time accessing a quick turn onto Speedvale.
Of course that would also be an implication that this is a thing limited to just that corner of Guelph, but eagle-eyed pedestrians will tell you that when it comes to drivers in this town, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a lot of will anytime someone’s at a red light and unwilling to wait.
There’s also a lot of will for people not wanting to get stuck behind a Guelph Transit bus. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked wistfully out the window as cars blow by around a bus that’s trying to head back out into traffic after picking someone up. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I’ve got to figure that when the traffic’s bad, impatient drivers probably cost the bus one or two minutes on its run time, and in the summer, when there’s no peak service, that could mean the difference between someone making their transfer and not.
So what do we do? Call the cops? Seems unlikely, because if people went to jail for rudeness they’d have to turn the town into a prison. Like Escape from New York! Which sounds awesome, but who would want to be behind high walls with a bunch of people all shoving to get further ahead in the circle we’d all travel in.
No, you can’t legislate better behaviour, the best you can do is moderate it, hence the 30 kilometre speed limit when staff noted that 40 would basically have the same effect. But 30 is as much a message as it is an actual limit on drivers to reduce their speed. It says that some things are more important than you getting where you’re going fast. It says that in a world where people read 60, but do 80, that we understand the game and we’ve got to look for where the puck’s going to be and not where it is (to use an odious hockey metaphor).
One of the virtues in riding the bus is that you learn patience. You have to pick your time to leave, you have to be prepared to wait, and you have to have a plan B when plan A sometimes inevitably goes out the window. It’s almost a different world from those that just hop in their cars and go, go, go. Sometimes, taking transit is like literally going no where fast, and you either embrace that zen-like quality, or you become Mad Max in a Ford Pinto making a beeline for the Super Centre.
I’ve visited this topic before in this space, but it’s worth repeating: in the battle between person versus car, car always wins no matter who is at fault. Yes, there are distracted walkers out there, people looking at their phones instead of where they’re going, but advanced responsibility goes to the ones behind two tonnes of speeding metal. That’s why you’re licensed to drive.
And let’s also think of it this way: If you’re passing through a school zone and you see the 30 sign and start cursing about being made to slow down, especially during school hours, then you are far too accustomed to driving fast. Plus, with it being the end of June and all, it’s worth remembering that for the next couple of months, just about everywhere in town’s going to be a “school’s out zone”.