19’s Plenty: Toronto Drops Speed Limit to 19 MPH on Residential Streets

“There is no war on the car,” said Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher. “There’s basically been this continued war on people who don’t have a car.”

30 km
The new speed limit is 30 kph, or 18.6 mph.

To remedy that situation, Fletcher, along with all of her colleagues on the Toronto and East York community council, voted last week to reduce speed limits to 30 kph (or 18.6 mph) on 240 miles of residential streets in the central districts of the city.

The lower speed limits are expected to encourage more people to bike and walk, and to improve air quality and noise conditions in the affected neighborhoods.

Toronto Mayor John Tory opposes the plan, preferring a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. Previous Mayor Rob Ford was (not surprisingly) more blunt, called the idea “nuts, nuts, nuts.” But on this issue, the mayor doesn’t get a vote.

Opponents of the plan argued that it will backfire since some streets are designed for faster speeds. It’s true that lowering the posted speed limit is no substitute for street designs that slow motorists. That’s why 20 mph zones that have saved lives in London include engineering changes as well. But it’s also true that blanket speed limit reductions, with no additional interventions, have a track record of success.

The lower speed limits in Toronto will make difference, and hopefully will serve as an impetus to redesign streets for safer driving speeds too.

10 thoughts on 19’s Plenty: Toronto Drops Speed Limit to 19 MPH on Residential Streets

  1. Blaine County (Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey) and Ada County (Boise) Idaho set their default residential speed limits to 20 mph years ago. Many other Idaho communities have done the same thing too. Not bad for a super-conservative state.

  2. They could always do engineering changes to reduce design speed in followup legislation…

    It’s really easy to do things like widen sidewalks, add trees, add bike-lanes and pleasant tree-planted buffer zones, etc. They could get those streets down to one car lane in each direction in no time flat!

  3. Most of those streets already are either one car lane in each direction or one-way mazes that prevent rat-running cut-through car driving.

  4. So is there actually a problem (with excessively fast street design), or are the opponents just blathering nonsense…?

    If any of those two-lane streets have excessively wide lanes (which can encourage faster driving), they could be narrowed by widening sidewalks…

  5. Since the opponents are led by Rob Ford and his ilk, I’ll put my money on “blathering nonsense.”

    Central Toronto’s streets were laid out in the 19th century very much not for cars. Even the major arterial streets cannot handle very much car traffic and what there is moves very slowly. See:


    That’s based upon 2008 data, but I suspect the only thing that’s changed is that car mode share continues to drop to well below 25% in central Toronto as its population continues to steadily grow.

  6. Hmm, I have a friend from Toronto who’s always posting pictures of the Toronto city-center, and it certainly looks pretty car-saturated. Lots of pedestrians too, but there’s a distinct sense they’re crammed into too-small sidewalks, dodging douchebags in SUVs, etc… I get the feeling they’d probably be better off just banning cars entirely.

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