McLeod: Speed enforcement is a quality of life issue

So it looks like we might get some photo radar in Ottawa. After much work by municipal politicians, the province has stepped up and decided that they’d allow municipalities to implement this eminently sensible technology.

Well, sort of. In school zones or community safety zones (whatever those are). I mean, let’s not get carried away here. People need to speed, right? Like, it’s really important.

I’m glad that we are going to get (limited) photo radar (or automated speed enforcement, or whatever we need to call it to make it more palatable to toxic driving culture). I think there are problems with the way they’ve legalized it, but baby steps, or something like that.

Naturally, those who want to speed are a little ticked off. They question why we need it. Thankfully, there are stats on this. Over the last five years, there have been something like 900 accidents in school zones during daytime hours. There have five kids hit by cars outside their schools (and more hit on their way to school…though whether that counts as “community safety zones”, I can’t tell you). So the stats bear it out.

But look, we shouldn’t need all these stats. Yes, there are accidents we need to prevent. Yes, you’re more likely to die when you’re hit by a car going 50 km/hr than one doing 40. This is all true, but safety isn’t just a safety issue.

It’s also a quality of life issue.

You shouldn’t be fearful walking out your door. You shouldn’t be fearful walking around your neighbourhood. You shouldn’t be worried that cars whipping around your community at 50 or 60 km/hr will take out your kids as you walk to the park.

It is stressful walking along so many of our streets. It is stressful trying to cross fast, dangerous streets. It is aggravating and exhausting trying to negotiate traffic and all the dangerous, aggressive driving out there. It’s insulting that your life is valued less than traffic.

Livable, walkable streets make our lives better. People with mobility issues need to be able to get around. People walking children have things to do. People should not be forced into a constant state of hyper vigilance because we as a society won’t get off our ass to try to actually make some safe streets…worse, because we as a society actively choose to design and build dangerous infrastructure.

This isn’t a call for pedestrians to be able to walk around without paying attention to what others are doing. This is a call for street safety that lessens this burden on pedestrians as much as possible.

No doubt, the one of the greatest things better speed enforcement can do is to keep some child from being rushed to hospital…or the grave, but we need to acknowledge and value the little ways livable, walkable cities make our lives just that much better.

Jonathan McLeod is an Ottawa writer. This column is republished from his Ottawa political blog Steps from the Canal. Follow him at twitter.com/jonathanmcleod.

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