• The Coast
  • Posts
  • Traffic safety hits close to home

Traffic safety hits close to home

What happens when news breaks a reporter?

Thank you for supporting our work as a Coast Insider. This post is meant for our Insider members only, but if you know someone who would like it, feel free to forward it along to them—we just ask that you tell them to subscribe and sign up to be a Coast Insider too!

Hey Insiders 👋 

This is not a normal edition of the City Hall Insider Newsletter. In The Coast’s tiny newsroom, there’s just one person who writes this newsletter, so if that person is unwell, then the newsletter does not happen. Unfortunately, this week is one of those weeks. 

The guy who runs HRM Fire News over on Twitter attended Friday’s fire budget meeting, and joked that anyone who covers council deserves some form of hazard pay. It was a particularly bad meeting, even by normal standards. Because even as the city councillors started making some good decisions about correcting past mistakes about fire safety, they also made some really bad ones.

At some point during the debate, councillors started talking about the city’s traffic calming administrative order, which is the policy council decided on that makes speed humps appear in your neighbourhood. But due to a whole slew of transportation and development policy mistakes of the past—such as the lack of water infrastructure like fire hydrants, and the lack of fire infrastructure like fire stations—speed humps and traffic calming massively delay fire response, which is putting people at an elevated risk of dying in a fire. 

This led to a debate about speed humps where councillors debated whether we should keep speed humps and accept the increased risk of dying by fire, or remove speed humps and accept the increased risk of dying by being hit by a driver. Councillor Trish Purdy, like a VCR at midnight, was a flash of light which illuminated for a second the underlying debate. She put forward a motion saying the city should reassess the traffic calming AO and the Integrated Mobility Plan as a whole.

Reassessing everything is exactly the right move. Halifax is at an inflection point in its life, where population growth is bringing pressures and opportunities that are forcing city government to adapt in order to keep up with it. We’ve got a new CAO; we’re getting a new mayor; the Centre Plan took forever to complete but now its planning model is getting rolled out in other parts of the city; the Community Safety Department is coming online; the Cogswell Interchange lands will be ready soon. Of course we should make sure the IMP works as intended and is adequate for our rapidly evolving needs.

But in the context of the debate, Purdy’s motion was targeted at increasing driver speeds, not rethinking mass transit for the next 30 years. As a result her motion did not even get a seconder, so it was not formally brought up for debate. Although this didn’t stop other councillors from bringing up speed humps and pointing to them as an effective tool of road safety.

The only problem with that is speed humps are not a tool for road safety, they are a tool for driver safety. According to the city of Halifax, we use speed humps to lower the speed of 85% of the drivers on any given road by seven to 14 kilometres per hour. In the streets selected for speed humps, the goal is to get cars down to 50km per hour because in a car-on-car crash, anything above that is 11 times more likely to kill or maim the driver causing the collision. But 50kmh is still an overwhelmingly deadly speed for people who are hit by cars; you need cars down to at least 30 kmh to get better outcomes from car-on-human crashes.

On Friday, councillors chose to increase the risk of road violence to non-driving road users and increase the risk of dying in a fire to all residents of traffic-calmed streets. They did so to keep drivers safer. Given the opportunity to examine why Halifax’s mobility planning has not yet been integrated seven years after passing the Integrated Mobility Plan, councillors chose to take a pass.

That decision hit me really hard for some personal reasons that are not completely fair to councillors. But also some personal reasons that are fair to blame on councillors.

On Friday, councillors told me loud and clear that road safety means driver safety. My neighbourhood is getting speed humps this summer, and as a result it will be no safer to walk my kid to the bus. It will be no safer for us to bike to our neighbourhood park or friends’ houses. It will be no safer for my kid to ride his bike to school. We can’t ride our bikes to the beach or the farmers’ markets. That would involve spending money on the Green Network Plan, which we didn’t fund last year. Or prioritizing investment in the AAA Bike Network over car infrastructure, but we aren’t doing that either.

At the end of this budget season, councillors will have passed a budget that does not make my community safer for my child. It will not be safer for him to move around, and come the fall he will be at a higher risk of dying in a fire.

I feel like throwing in the towel. You win, council. You obviously don’t want my kid to have the life I want him to have. You don’t want him to be safe and independent. You want me to be safe driving him around.

Congratulations council. I’ll stop walking him to the bus and drive him to school instead. I’ll drive him to the park a couple hundred metres from the house. I’ll drive him to his friend’s house. I just want to keep him safe, and since the infrastructure you’re building with my tax dollars is designed to keep him safe while driving, then that’s what I’ll do.

There’s no normal newsletter today because for the first time since I’ve started covering council, I’ve misplaced my hope for the future. My coverage of city hall this week may also be a bit sparse.

I feel defeated and need some time to recoup. I appreciate your patience and understanding at this time.

Thank you for helping to make our City Hall coverage possible.

Know someone who should be advertising with us and getting their message in front of 50,000+ engaged locals?

Connect them with our partnerships team, please!

Join the conversation

or to participate.