Sunday 18 December 2011

The speed limit is too low. I have proof.

If you follow local Winnipeg news, you probably heard about the kerfuffle over a photo radar speed trap at Grant Ave. and Nathaniel St. where the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and anti-speed trap advocates Wise-Up Winnipeg are urging people not to pay their tickets because they believe the speeds aren't being measured properly.

Earlier in the year, Wise-Up Winnipeg also questioned whether the speed limit was properly posted on this stretch of road.

Here's the thing: even if the speed limit signage is posted correctly, and even if the radars are calibrated properly, these tickets should never have been issued. Why? Because the speed limit itself is incorrect.

This is not just my opinion. It is fact. I'll explain: In 2003 a report was submitted by the Winnipeg Public Works Department titled "SPEED LIMIT ON GRANT AVENUE AND ON KENASTON BOULEVARD". The report was conducted by traffic analysts and signed by J.A.Thomson, Director of Public Works. It has since been removed from the City of Winnipeg web site (at least I can't find it) but I happen to have a copy.

It's conclusion:

"The measured 85th percentile speeds on Grant Avenue between Stafford Street and Kenaston Boulevard and on Kenaston Boulevard between Grant Avenue and Academy Road range between 61 and 68 km/h. The collision rates ... are comparable to the city-wide average of 3.3 on regional streets with similar characteristics. Based on this information and on the widely accepted practice for setting speed limits using the 85th percentile speed, it is reasonable to set 60 km/hr speed limits on Grant Avenue between Stafford Street and Kenaston Boulevard and on Kenaston Boulevard between Grant Avenue and Academy Road. Furthermore, it is expected that making these changes ... will (i) result in more efficient transportation routes along these streets, (ii) reduce the incidence of short-cutting traffic on adjacent residential streets, and (iii) provide motorists travelling along these routes with a more consistent driving environment in terms of uniformity in speed limits."
When this study was brought before council it was rejected for unspecified reasons:
"The Standing Policy Committee on Public Works did not concur in the administrative recommendation and therefore did not increase the speed limit.
Further, the Standing Policy Committee on Public Works requested that in the future, consideration of speed limits be referred initially to the Ward Councillor and if necessary to the respective Community Committee." (soucre: Minutes - Standing Policy Committee on Public Works - January 13, 2003)
The traffic analysts collected all this data, did all that analysis, and council just tossed it into the garbage can without any apparent consideration. Even if the policy is good the optics are bad, therefore the elected councillors won't even touch it. Get the Community Committee to agree and maybe we'll consider it ... as if that will ever happen. That's leadership for you.

There is a permanent red light camera installed on Kenaston Boulevard between Grant Avenue and Academy Road at Corydon Ave., and this Nathaniel St. mobile speed trap is on Grant Avenue between Stafford Street and Kenaston Boulevard. In both cases tickets are being issued to drivers that are driving a safe speed according to traffic industry standards. It is immoral and objectionable and counter-productive to issue speeding tickets to people in areas where you KNOW the speed limits are too low.

The reason I found this study in the first place is because a few years ago I was nailed with a photo radar ticket on Kenaston Blvd. I challenged it in court. I presented this study as evidence to show that the speed I was driving was safe according to accepted standards and argued that enforcing this ticket violated the intent of the law, which ultimately is to make streets safer. In fact, enforcing an artificially low speed limit can make streets more dangerous because it causes speed differentials to increase (less consistency in the speeds people drive) which leads to increased accident rates.

Unfortunately the judge I got was completely incapable of comprehending this argument. "But .... you were going over the speed limit."

GAAAAAA! This is why you're almost at retirement and still stuck working traffic court! (I didn't say that out loud.)

Perhaps if I had appealed I would have got a judge with a capacity for independent thought and abstract concepts, but appealing takes time and money and I wasn't up for the challenge at the time. However, if one of you have recently been dinged with a ticket in one of these areas, I will gladly send you this study and I will give you my full support and encouragement as you attempt to fight your ticket.


Anonymous said...

The speed limit is 50 on Grant because there 3 different school zones you go through btwn Stafford & Kenaston. Slow the fuck down man.

cherenkov said...

Why is the speed limit 50 on Kenaston?

Anonymous said...

The newest fund raising scheme is happening on inkster and McPhillips ( southbound ) - mandatory right. I got caught this morning - Sunday - and watched at least 20 cars pulled over in less than an hour. I would assume, today alone, 100 cars easy.

Something is not right when 100 cars are pulled over and none were speeding, all had seat belts ( the 12 motorists I witnessed and spoke to )

Its a 200 dollar ticket given early Sunday morning, welcome to Winnipeg, the shittiest little town on the prairie. Where gotchya policies are the norm and having the decency to warn drivers about a change or post clear signs, oh wait, they had clear signs during the "construction ticketing " fiasco, but, somehow, they meant something else.

Winnipeg Girl said...

@Anon #1 - There may well be 3 school zones on Grant but it is also a road that is two lanes in either direction separated by a boulevard; there is no reason at all for it to be 50km/hr.

Traffic Tickets Toronto said...

Sometimes, the law can be a little too confusing. And of course, problems like this will always cause frustration among drivers. It's important for things to be crystal clear in order to avoid troublesome situations which affect the well being of all road users. A accident-free or ticket free city is what a mayor always wants from his jurisdiction.

unclebob said...

I wonder if the study you quoted and ones like it are now quietly being re-used to identify fishing holes which present the most lucrative opportunities for the Sheriff of Nuttingham to perpetrate highway robbery. Where, oh where is Robin Hood when we need him?

The Traveler said...

How is leving a fine for a offence committed robbery . If and when Wise Up proof beyond a shadow that all of the tickets given out were intentionally wrong and were given any way. Then it is not a cash grab, but some people getting caught speeding. Not that all tickets are 100% right but I would bet 95% are. After all why do the police want to participate in a criminal offence knowingly. Also the speed limit is 50 cause people wanted it to be, this is after all going thru a residential area. And both routes are truck routes,ever live next to trucks 50 ft from your front door . Besides what the hell is the rush .

cherenkov said...

Old Chum: the police aren't participating in a criminal offence, they are participating in fundraising, and "cause people wanted it to be" is not proper justification for setting speed limits too low. As pointed out earlier, speed limits that are needlessly low have negative consequences, and if the residents of every street were allowed to set their own speed limit you would never get out of first gear.

bwalzer said...

The setting of speed limits is a highly political process, as it should be...

There is a sliding scale of risk here. Speed limits are set in such a way that the death and injury rate is in some sense acceptable. This has to be the result of a consensus. A single speeding driver raises the risk to people who have not accepted that higher risk.

Also, people should be able to assume that drivers are going at or below the limit when doing things like crossing the street. That is even in the case where they are doing something wrong. A driver has no right to impose a sentence of death on a j-walker.

The judge was entirely correct in upholding your ticket. The subject of what the speed limit should be is a political question. A judge does not have the authority to overrule the decision of the majority for something like this.

kenmore63 said...

"...enforcing an artificially low speed limit can make streets more dangerous because it causes speed differentials to increase (less consistency in the speeds people drive) which leads to increased accident rates."

Okay, let's see if I got this right. What you're saying is that the difference in speed between the people doing the speed limit and the people going over the speed limit as a matter of principle, increases the risk of a crash. And somehow this is the city's fault for not matching the signs to your principals. Really?

cherenkov said...

@bw: the study took into account accident rates (accidents of all kinds), and these aren't streets that people cross on foot very often, especially Kenaston. Should it be a political decision? Decisions that are entirely political are usually bad decisions. We've seen that with numerous things like Bipole III. Politicians should heed the advice of experts.

Was the judge correct to uphold my fine? A properly trained monkey can compare two numbers and tell you which one is higher. Judges are expected to use logic and judgement in upholding the law. This judge waived fines for flimsy excuses like 'my baby was crying' but completely fell flat when presented with an argument that required a little more intelligence to process.

@kenmore: not as a matter of principle ... as a matter of fact, according to some studies. Many people will drive what they perceive to be a safe speed to drive -- the 'natural' speed of the street if you will, and other people will drive at the speed limit. If the speed limit is set at the natural speed then people will all tend to drive the same speed which is safer.

In addition to that, there are other factors like the three points mentioned in the conclusion of the study.

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