Fifty-four per cent of the people who responded to a City of Nelson survey in March think the speed limit of 40 kilometres per hour within the city is satisfactory and don’t want it changed.
Thirty-three per cent said it should be lowered to 30 kilometres per hour and 15 per cent were not sure.
City planner Sebastien Arcand reported these results to council at its July 27 meeting. The survey was conducted as part of the city’s Active Transportation Plan, which aims to enhance walking and biking in Nelson.
The city used the online ThoughtExchange platform to gauge public opinion. The survey drew 327 participants, with 429 thoughts that received 11,436 ratings.
ThoughtExchange asks for initial brief “thoughts,” then allows respondents to rate other people’s thoughts up or down. Overall results are influenced by these ratings.
Three dominant themes emerged: better enforcement, better infrastructure, and agreement with the current speed limit.
The program also identified areas of common ground – ideas that were agreed upon by people on both sides of the question. Two thoughts that typify this common ground were:
• “Start enforcing people stopping at stop signs and parking too close to stop signs.”
• “40 km/hr is pretty slow. If you did more speed checks at this speed there would not be an issue.”
There was also common ground on the need to lower speed in schools zones, parks, and bike routes and the need to improve intersections with better signage, lighting, and enforcement of stop signs.
Arcand said research shows that a pedestrian struck at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of surviving, while at 50 km/h they have only a 15 per cent chance.
The city cites other research to show that lower speed limits result in lower greenhouse gas emissions, lower vehicle noise, and increased feelings of safety.
Vancouver, Surrey and Calgary are recent examples of many cities piloting reduced speed limits in neighbourhoods.
Seventy-four per cent of the Nelson survey respondents reported that they move around the city mostly by motor vehicle, five per cent mostly by bike, 19 per cent mostly on foot, and two per cent by other means.
Councillor Keith Page pointed out that only 15 per cent of the respondents were between 50 and 65. He wondered if the technology of the ThoughtExchange process was a barrier to that group.
“How are we going to help them? Is the library going to get involved, are we going to have sessions to teach how to do this, can they call a tech support number? I feel that we are cutting out a group that is historically quite involved. That is one of the most involved times of your life is your 50s and 60s, in politics.”
Chief financial officer Colin McClure responded that ThoughtExchange is a relatively new product and that people will get used to it. He said the city has used it several times, and each time the overall number of participants has gone up.
In a more recent ThoughtExchange about Nelson’s welcome signs, conducted in May, 1,113 people participated and 25 per cent of them were age 50 to 65.
The report on the survey results were given to council as information only, with no decision to be made at this point.
But Mayor John Dooley said this may not be the end of discussions about the speed limit.
“I don’t think this should be our only kick at this can,” he said. “We are working now with the High Street corridor, Third Street and so on, to accommodate both bikes and cars, and as that evolves, this conversation could be completely different in 12 months.”