Cyclist urges Sackville Town Council to consider 30 km/h speed limits on downtown streets

Harold Jarche says he has cycled more than 125,000 km since moving to Sackville in 1998

One of Sackville’s most avid cyclists is asking town council to consider lowering speed limits on town streets to 30 km/h to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, joggers, cyclists and skateboarders.

“In my 23 years in this town, I have been hit four times by motorists while on my bicycle, each time on Bridge Street, which is where I live,” Harold Jarche told Sackville Town Council during a presentation on Monday.

“Luckily I was not seriously injured as the collisions occurred at low speeds,” he said.

“But the speed limit on Bridge Street is 50 km/h and many drivers exceed the speed limit.”

Jarche, who runs his own consulting business, said someone hit by a car at 30 km/h has a 90% chance of survival, but survival rates drop sharply as speeds increase.

“A person, hit by a car at 40 km/h has a 60% chance of survival,” he said.

“Your neighbour, hit by a car at 50 km/h has a 20% chance of survival; your friend, hit by a car at 60 km/h has no chance of survival.”

Jarche said that being struck by larger vehicles such as SUVs or pickup trucks doubles the risk of death.

Jarche showed town council the one metre “pool noodle” he strapped to his bike on July 1st 2017

He pointed out that a provincial law named after a competitive cyclist, who was killed in New Brunswick, requires drivers to leave at least one metre of open space between their vehicles and a bicycle when passing a bike travelling in the same direction.

He told council that when “Ellen’s law” came into effect on July 1st, 2017, he marked the occasion by cycling around town with a one-metre “pool noodle” strapped to his bicycle.

“As I was coming down Bridge towards downtown, an oncoming motorist made a left turn across my lane and drove into me pinning me against the curb,” he said.

“Even with bright clothes and an orange pool noodle, he did not see me in the middle of the day.  Luckily, once again, his slow speed kept me from being injured.”

Jarche said many people are surprised at how wide a metre actually is. Photo courtesy Harold Jarche

“I would like to cycle another 125,000 kilometres in this town,” Jarche told council.

“But as the population grows and vehicles become bigger, safety is a critical concern. I know many people who don’t cycle because they’re scared.”

Jarche wondered if council would be willing to make roads safer for vulnerable road users by starting to lower speed limits.

He pointed out that most speeds are set at 40 or 50 km/h and that 30 km/h limits in school zones are limited from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Ask residents on each of our streets if they want speed limits reduced. If the majority want it, let’s give it to them,” he said.

“The city of Paris, population 2.1 million people, has just reduced speed limits on almost every single street to 30 km/h,” he added.

“If Paris can do it, I think Sackville can do it.”

Councillors respond

Councillor Bill Evans said he hoped council could do something to address Jarche’s concerns about speed.

“I’m on Squire Street and my neighbours lobby me all the time, ‘We’ve got to slow traffic down,” but just like with Pond Shore Road, speed limit is one thing, but enforcement is another,” Evans added.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said the town had done a study on some downtown streets.

“I believe it was Squire and Weldon [and] we found out that the people who were speeding, were the people who lived on those streets,” he added.

“So how do you get through to them?” Phinney asked. “The old saying is, ‘You can’t fix stupid.'”

“The old saying was people would keep drinking and driving,” Jarche answered.

“Until Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started really working on that and I think that’s what it takes.”

Jarche acknowledged that more public education is needed to change people’s habits.

“I just wanted to focus on one thing, which is feasible, which is lowering the official speed limit starting on various streets, but yeah, there’s a lot more that has to be done,” he said.

To read Harold Jarche’s presentation to town council, click here.

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8 Responses to Cyclist urges Sackville Town Council to consider 30 km/h speed limits on downtown streets

  1. Kata List Productions says:

    Thanks for covering this story. I am concerned for his safety – four times he’s been hit!! Wow.

  2. Janet Hammock says:

    I support the proposal to reduce the speed limit to 30k on town streets. I don’t buy the argument that the law should not be changed because it is a challenge to enforce it. If it has the effect of slowing many of us drivers down, I am all for it. I am one who forgets and sometimes find myself driving over 50k on Bridge Street, and yes, I live just off Bridge Street. But I do make a huge effort to drive the speed limit, in large part because of Harold’s last alert. With the addition of skateboarders to our roads, I think the new speed limit he proposes is a no-brainer.

  3. Les Hicks says:

    Good idea Harold, but considering how the town recently spent money to hire an ‘expert’ engineering consulting firm to determine whether the speed limit should be reduced on Pond Shore Road, and the firm completed a flawed study and recommended that the speed limit should in fact be increased, not decreased, I don’t have much hope that your recommendation to lower speed limits throughout the town will be received positively at town hall.

    Police enforcement would likely reduce the number of drivers exceeding the speed limits but unfortunately with the town’s current contract with the RCMP we do not see much police presence on our streets. Perhaps it is time for the Town of Sackville to consider reinstating it’s own police force. There have been similar concerns expressed about the level of policing obtained through the RCMP contract in Moncton and Dieppe, and according to the CBC, a motion approved recently at a Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick calls for the province to study “the most effective and efficient way to provide policing that meets or exceeds minimum policing standards in the province and in its municipalities.”

    The reason many municipalities disbanded their own police forces and signed contracts with the RCMP for municipal policing back in the early 2000’s was the questionable decision made by the provincial government to change the provincial police act and require every police department, regardless of it’s size, to maintain police dog services, bomb disposal units, emergency response teams, etc., or to have access to these specialized units. The town of Woodstock, which has a similar population to that of Sackville, has maintained it’s own police force by establishing a contract with the City of Fredericton to provide the services of these specialized units if needed. Although it might be more expensive, due to the requirement to have access to these services, for our town to switch back to our own municipal police force it might be worth the extra expense to see an improvement in the level of police presence that we have in our town. At present there are not any officers on duty in the town at all during the wee hours of the morning and officers have to travel from the Shediac area to respond to any emergency calls received from Sackville.

  4. Heidi says:

    Changing the speed limits could help but seems a bit drastic. Bridge Street is quite a wide and long street and at 30km it would be a painful drive. I have noticed that many drivers are inconsiderate to cyclists so I was happy when Ellen’s law came into effect. Some serious driver education and some street signs reminding people of 1m and to share the road would be a good start. I only became aware and more considerate after I lived in a city where cycling was very common so I assume the people here just need some awareness.

  5. JJ says:

    Got hit on four different occasions eh ? Driving skills ??
    Maybe we should have new rules about bicycles driving all over town streets not respecting laws

    • Dear JJ — I invite you to join me for a bike ride any time. Then you can judge my riding skills. We could practice bumping off the side of an oncoming truck as it makes a left turn in front of us. Or we could wait at the traffic lights when the walk signal is on, but an oncoming car runs the red light and drives into us. This is even more fun if you are still clipped in to one of your pedals. So, please join me for a short 30 km ride, JJ.

  6. Gerrie Baycroft says:

    Harold, I support your desire to see a lower speed limit downtown, especially on Main, Bridge and York. I walk and cycle and also drive. I have not yet been able to drive faster than about 20 mph in front of the post office for fear of someone stepping out. I think there is no need to go fast anywhere in the downtown area where there are pedestrians nearby.

  7. DM says:

    If you want to see speeding come and spend the day in my house on Salem St! I’m concern someone is going to get hit, especially at the two crosswalks closer to Queen’s Rd because of blind hills. It is not only speeding but the loud noise from modified vehicles that obviously were done by “backyard mechanics”. ! Where are the RCMP, is it not their job to enforce speeding & modified vehicles’ laws? I never see any officers with speeding radar around. Someone is going to get hurt sooner than later, I fully support reducing the speed limits to 30 km if that is what it takes to safe a life!

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