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.
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.”
“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.”
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.