Here is a bit of an update on Bill 31, which we used to know as Bill 173, that was to deal with safer roads. As you have read in an earlier post, Bill 173 was going to deal with cycling safety too. You can read back my post here.
But the Ontario Government fell and when a government falls, the Bills “die” and they have to be reintroduced. On Tuesday October 21, 2014, the Bill was reintroduced as Bill 31 (Read Bill 31 to here). Bill 31 deals again with bike lights, counterflow lanes, cross rides next to a cross walk, bicycle traffic control signals, one meter passing rule, cycling on shoulders etc.
I haven’t really been following it much this time, but I heard the content of the new Bill was more or less similar. I finally had
some time really nothing else to do, and looked into the current state of the process. I figured I might as well put it in a blog post. On the fly I discovered my name in the Hansard; together with Zlatko and David I was mentioned in the House by Yasir Naqvi.
This is how Bill 31 was introduced in Parliament by Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Del Luca:
Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), 2014 / Loi de 2014 modifiant des lois en ce qui concerne le transport (accroître la sécurité routière en Ontario)
Bill 31, An Act to amend the Highway 407 East Act, 2012 and the Highway Traffic Act in respect of various matters and to make a consequential amendment to the Provincial Offences Act / Projet de loi 31, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2012 sur l’autoroute 407 Est et le Code de la route en ce qui concerne diverses questions et apportant une modification corrélative à la Loi sur les infractions provinciales.
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I’m very, very proud to stand to stand in my place today to introduce this particular bill, my first bill being brought forward to the floor of the Legislature as Ontario’s Minister of Transportation.
The Bill has been discussed three times in Second Reading.
The first discussion took place on November 27, 2014, read the text here. You’ll find the Minister introducing higher fines for distracted driving for example, but also for dooring. Be prepared for a very long read and lots of rambling and chest pounding by MP’s. The first thing that comes to mind is: “Can you come to the point, please“
The second discussion took place on December 1st, 2014. If you are interested in what was being said, read it here.
The third discussion took place on December 8th, 2014. You can read it back here. I lifted out the part from our own MP for Ottawa Centre, Yasir Naqvi. He partly uses his speech of 2788 words (that must have been about 30 minutes) to promote Ottawa and all the changes the City is going through. On the fly, he introduces for discussion the topic of 40km/hr.
Official Records for 8 December 2014
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Monday 8 December 2014 Lundi 8 décembre 2014
Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you very much, Speaker, for recognizing me to speak on Bill 31, Making Ontario’s Roads Safer. I’m very excited to talk about this bill, to speak on this bill. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time, and I’m glad that I’ve got the opportunity tonight to do so.
The issue around road safety, the issue around safety for our pedestrians, for our bicyclists, is an extremely relevant and important issue for my community of Ottawa Centre. As members have heard me speak about often, I have the great privilege of representing downtown Ottawa, a community which is at the heart of the city of Ottawa, with some of the most incredible landmarks in our nation’s capital located in my great community of Ottawa Centre.
But one of the incredible things about living in a downtown community, Speaker, as you can recognize, is that the members of my community very much rely on various forms of transportation, be it walking to work or to the local community centre; or taking a bicycle to various activities, to the farmer’s market at Parkdale; or taking the bus to the newly developed Lansdowne Park in the Glebe; or living in Old Ottawa South and, in the middle of winter, skating downtown to work on the Rideau Canal. I mean, you name it, all different kinds of transportation are used in my riding by my constituents.
The next most exciting thing that’s happening in my community of Ottawa Centre is the building of the Confederation Line, the light rail transit system, which basically starts in my community at Tunney’s Pasture and goes all the way through downtown—actually underground through the downtown and then to the Rideau Centre, the University of Ottawa and beyond. So we are getting this incredible new addition of another way of great public transit by way of light rail that is going to make it even easier for my constituents, members of my community, to be able to travel from their home to their work, to the local farmer’s market or one of our community rinks or local parks. Needless to say, for all those reasons, Speaker, there is a great sense of interest in my community in making sure that our roads are safe, that it is easy for members of my community to be able to walk, skate, ride their bike or take public transit to various things in our community.
I’m very proud to come from Ottawa because there are a lot of great things happening in my community to make it even more of a bicycle-friendly, pedestrian-friendly city. I’ll give you a couple of examples that are happening right in my community of Ottawa Centre. First, there is, for the very first time, right in the downtown core, on Laurier Avenue, a segregated bike lane. It started two years ago as a pilot project. It has now been made permanent because of the incredible amount of use that came about. That has allowed for people to be able to travel through our downtown on Laurier Avenue.
Those who know Ottawa well will know that Laurier Avenue is in the heart of downtown; it’s a very busy road. Having two segregated bike lanes on both sides of the road makes it that much easier for people to get to work from their home. The Laurier Avenue Segregated Bike Lane Project has been so successful that it won the 2015 Sustainable Community Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It has been celebrated as a best practice and is being encouraged in other communities as well.
Another great thing that is happening in my community is the building of complete streets. Complete Streets for Canada is an incredible concept where cars, bicyclists and pedestrians are all treated equally. Lanes are created for all three modes of transportation in a way that people feel safe and have equal access to get from point A to point B. The very first complete street to be built in Ottawa is actually in my riding of Ottawa Centre, where Churchill Avenue in Westboro is now a complete street. There are two more planned in Ottawa, and they also happen to be in my community of Ottawa Centre: one on Main Street, starting construction in the spring, and the other will be on Scott Street, a couple of years from now—once again, really making sure that we’re putting emphasis on all modes of transportation in my community, be it cars, bicyclists or pedestrians, by building more complete streets.
The result of all this great activity—and there are many other great things that are happening, with kilometres and kilometres of bike lanes, an easy-access foot bridge etc.—is that Ottawa is being recognized around Ontario and Canada as a leader and a bicycle-friendly community. I’m really happy to note that through Share the Road Cycling Coalition—and my good friend the member from Burlington, in her capacity as a CEO of Share the Road, was there two years ago and presented Ottawa the very first Gold Bicycle Friendly Community Award, yet again recognizing the fact that Ottawa has been doing incredible stuff in making sure it has safe streets. It’s a usable city for bicyclists, for pedestrians and for skaters, and you name it.
That’s why in my community—Speaker, you won’t be surprised—we’re really engaged in the development of Ontario’s first bicycling strategy, #CycleON, which has resulted in so much behind the great things that we find in Bill 31. #CycleON was announced almost two years ago, laying out a very ambitious plan to make Ontario a cycle-friendly jurisdiction. Members of my community were quite engaged in that process.
I want to note three people, Speaker, who were part of the minister’s advisory committee: Zlatko Krstulich, who works with the city of Ottawa, was quite engaged. He lives in my community, is a cycle enthusiast and has done a lot of good work in this area; Hans Moor, who is part of Citizens for Safe Cycling, another great advocacy group in my community, was part of that advisory group; City Councillor David Chernushenko, another great advocate of bicycling and pedestrian-safe streets.
They were very much part and parcel of the work that went into #CycleON, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all three of them for their advice to me as the member of provincial Parliament on how we can take concrete, practical steps within the provincial context to ensure that cities like Ottawa, which are putting so much effort into making our communities safe for bicycles and pedestrians, can do more. A lot of their input and advice is reflected in #CycleON, the bicycling strategy that Ontario has put forward.
Speaker, as mentioned, Bill 31 has a lot of incredible stuff and, pulled together, it really takes a major, major step when it comes to making Ontario a leader in Canada—I would argue even in North America—toward making sure that our cities, our towns and our villages are welcoming to cyclists and pedestrians, with things like an emphasis on distracted driving, alcohol and drug-impaired driving, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and truck, vehicle and bus safety. All these things are very important components in making sure that our communities are safe for everyone and we are really fostering a culture of sharing between pedestrians, between cyclists and, of course, car drivers on our streets.
I would like to first focus on the part dealing with red-light cameras. You will notice that this bill has a section dealing with supporting municipalities. It proposes an improvement in municipalities’ ability to charge and prosecute individuals from out of province who run red lights and fail to stop for school buses. This is a very important element in this bill, something that I had some hand in working on. I had the great opportunity of tabling Bill 131, a private member’s bill, in October 2012, dealing with the enforcement of the Provincial Offences Act as it relates to red-light camera infractions from out-of-province drivers.
As you can imagine, in Ottawa, it being a border town just next to Quebec, this is a significant issue. We have red-light cameras on our streets. They are put in place to make our roads safer for other car drivers but also for pedestrians. We find ourselves in a strange situation where out-of-province drivers do not face the same rigour of law under the red-light camera regulations as do Ontario drivers. What my private member’s bill, Bill 131, did was make sure that we created a level playing field and gave municipalities the power to be able to enforce the infractions on out-of-province plates.
I’m really happy to see that Bill 31 incorporates my private member’s bill, something that I think represents a real challenge in my community. This will go a long way in making sure that roads are safer in the long run, in Ottawa and other communities where you have red-light cameras.
The second aspect I want to focus on in this bill, which is very important, is around pedestrian and cyclist safety, something that, as I mentioned earlier, is a very important issue for my community. There are some really interesting and important things that are part of this legislation that will promote cycling as active transportation and specifically improve cyclist safety. Too many times, we hear in my community that a person unfortunately loses his or her life because of a collision between a car or truck and a cyclist. Just a week and a half ago, we had another fatality—it happened to be in my community, in Ottawa Centre—where a person was hit by a garbage truck and succumbed to his injuries.
These are the things that we need to prevent and take every step possible. I think this particular bill will go a long way by ensuring that municipalities now will be allowed, if the bill passes, to create contraflow bicycle lanes to provide more direct routes and connectivity. It’s a real challenge, especially in dense urban communities like Ottawa where you’ve have a lot of one-ways. This will allow for a real opportunity for municipalities to be able to use a one-way and put in contraflow bicycle lanes for cyclists to travel.
Increasing the range of convictions for dooring of cyclists is, I think, another very important move. Fines going from between $60 and $500 to between $300 and $1,000, and raising the demerit points from two to three, is a very significant step, again, to make sure that people are a little bit more cognizant when they are opening their doors on busy streets and check their blind spots so they are not hitting a bicyclist who may be coming.
The other important point that has been mentioned during the debate is the one-metre rule when passing cyclists where it is practicable—another very important step that will allow for more safe cycling and better understanding of sharing the road within our communities. This is an issue that I have heard about quite often in my community, and I’m really excited to see that it is part of this bill.
In terms of pedestrian safety, requiring drivers to yield the whole roadway to pedestrians at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers is, again, a very important and significant step. In the grand scheme of things, when you think about it, it doesn’t seem like a big thing. Why was it not done before? The fact of the matter is that the Highway Traffic Act was written in a particular way. It was written as legislation at a time where driving cars was the prevalent way of doing things, and now the reality is changing. More and more, in communities across the province, we see more people walking, more people being active in their lives. These changes are extremely important, so I’m really happy to see that we are changing the manner in which we take active transportation. Through these changes, we really are bringing a cultural shift, a cultural change, in ensuring that our roads are safe.
To that I would add that the provisions around distracted driving are very important, as well. There are ample studies now out that show that when you’re on your phone while driving, on your BlackBerry or iPhone, and texting, the danger that you cause on the road in some instances is more than drinking and driving. This is a serious issue. I think that we know as much, that we are not allowed to use our hand-held devices while driving. We often see people doing it. Just this morning, as I was coming from the airport to Queen’s Park, I saw about three drivers at stop signs, their eyes were gazing down. It is easy to spot when somebody is looking at their device, and not at the steering wheel, not at the road. It is dangerous. It jeopardizes your own life, but most importantly, it jeopardizes the lives around you, whether pedestrians or cyclists or other car drivers. To see that we are increasing the fines and we are introducing demerit points is a very important step that is very much part of this bill.
So add all these things together, Speaker—and I’ve just picked things that I think are very important from the perspective of my community in Ottawa—and you really start to see that this bill takes a very significant step in making our roads safer, I really want to thank everybody in this House who has contributed to this bill. I want to thank the Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, for his leadership in bringing this very fulsome package together to the Legislature so that we can really get to see all these pieces together that will make our community safe.
In my last couple of minutes, I do want to talk about another important issue, which is not part of this legislation, but I think it’s a discussion worth having. This is something that I heard in my community quite a lot, and that’s around speed limits on residential streets. This is a very significant issue in my community. As I mentioned, it’s a densely populated community with a lot of young families, and we’re finding that 50 kilometres an hour as a default speed is just too much. We live in a time when we live in more tight-knit communities, there are more kids on the streets, the cars are much faster now than ever before, and perhaps—having had conversations with my constituents—it is time that we consider lowering the default speed limits from 50 kilometres an hour to 40 kilometres an hour on residential streets, and to 30 kilometres an hour around school zones.
Ample studies have been done that demonstrate that the impact on collision of a car driving at 50 kilometres an hour versus a car driving 40 kilometres an hour is drastically lower; in fact, the chances of a person surviving that kind of collision is much higher just by reducing the speed limit by 10 kilometres. In fact, even our coroner, who did quite an extensive study on pedestrian deaths—one of the recommendations he outlined was to reduce the default speed limit on residential streets from 50 kilometres an hour to 40 kilometres an hour. We’re excited to see other jurisdictions around the world taking the same step. In fact, most recently, New York City reduced their speed limit to 30 kilometres an hour on residential streets, and Paris has done the same. I introduce that as a topic for debate and discussion.
In the long run, I think there still needs to be more analysis done in the context of Ontario. No doubt, we still need to do some consultation to hear from our municipal partners, from other community groups and those who advocate on behalf of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, to see if that is something Ontario needs to consider.
But, Speaker, I can tell you, listening to my constituents in Ottawa Centre as I go knocking on doors in my community every weekend, this is an issue that I hear quite often about. There will be a tremendous amount of support in my community if we as the Legislature consider reducing default speed limits on our residential streets from 50 kilometres to 40 kilometres an hour and in our school zones to 30 kilometres an hour because it will really complement well some of the changes that are outlined here.
The next step is that the Bill goes to Committee again. Then it goes to Third Reading and eventually the a bill is given Royal Assent (if all works out).
From Wikipedia: Royal assent is the final stage of the legislative process, the formal process by which a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament becomes law. It is only once royal assent has been given to a bill that it becomes an Act of Parliament and part of the law of Canada. (or in this case, Ontario – HM)
So there you have it.