• Matt Harrison

Slower 105 better for cyclists

The official start to spring is also the official start to spandex season — you know, those ubiquitous too-tight shorts that road cyclists wear throughout the warmer seasons.


No one can argue cyclists aren't great for the local economy. They're also a great eco-friendly attraction for the Hills. Where they cycle, however, has been hotly debated in the past.


Voie Verte Chelsea doesn't want them using the community trail, since their speeds are dangerous to pedestrians. The Gatineau Park isn't ideal either, since – anecdotally speaking – vehicles whip along the winding park roads too fast, the shoulder is grass, and road conditions in places are death-defying. Which means cyclists are forced to use Hwy 105.


In response to the new development near Larrimac, Chelsea council recently voted unanimously to change a portion of the highway's speed limit from 70 km/h to 50 km/h. This has opened a debate about changing the entire highway – within Chelsea's municipal boundaries – from 70 to 50 km/h.


The Low Down has received responses to the speed limit change, with most agreeing that the entire highway should be reduced and only a handful against, with one such responder stating: “You don't play on the road.”


I don't think people are 'playing on' the 105 as one might do in a suburb. As a cyclist who uses Hwy 105 routinely, I've witnessed joggers, moms/dads with strollers, and teens on bikes. Not everyone who lives on the highway has a second car enabling them to head into town or the park, and residents should be allowed to use the “necessary, efficient road” – as the responder put it – without fear of being hit by vehicles — a good percentage no doubt travelling beyond the speed limit.


A study by Transport Canada in 2005 found that most drivers admitted to speeding an average of 10 km/h or more on two-lane highways. The real number is likely higher, according to experts associated with the report's release, since most drivers often underestimate the extent of their speeding. Which means many driving along Hwy 105 are travelling closer to 80 or 90 km/h. Reducing the speed limit to 50 km/h will likely translate into speeds of 60 and 70 km/h.


Slower speeds also translate into higher survival rates if pedestrians/cyclists are hit.

“Pedestrians have been shown to have a 90 per cent chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h or below, but less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact of 80 km/h,” according to a World Health Organization Road Safety 2004 report.


No one expects the speed limit on Hwy 105 to be reduced to 30 or 45 km/h — but given that people generally speed, and the survival rates associated with lower speeds are better, why not reduce Hwy 105 to 50 km/h, giving pedestrians and road cyclists a safe corridor that leaves the community trail to pedestrians?

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