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Traffic Control

Speed Limits

Speed Limit Setting

Speed limits on the highways of Manitoba, including in the City of Winnipeg, are set by The Highway Traffic Board of Manitoba which is appointed by the Provincial Government.

When a speed limit change on a City street has been requested or a speed limit is proposed on a newly constructed street, it is the practice of the Public Works Department to provide the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works, being the City’s Traffic Authority, comprised of a Committee of elected officials appointed by Council, with an evaluation of such a request/proposal, including the results of a speed study on the street and a comparison of the collision rate thereon with other streets of similar characteristics, and an assessment of the traffic operating conditions on a newly constructed street. With such information, the Committee is better informed to decide whether the Public Works Department should be authorized to apply to The Highway Traffic Board of Manitoba for the requested speed limit change or for a proposed speed limit on a newly constructed street.

The Public Works Department’s recommendation to the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works for speed limits is based on the measured 85th percentile speed of traffic on the street, being the speed at or below which 85% of motorists operate their vehicle, provided that the collision rate is within acceptable limits. Such a criterion recognizes that the majority of motorists operate their vehicle in a reasonable and prudent manner with due consideration for conditions encountered, including activity into and out of intersecting public streets and approaches, as well as the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists on or near the roadway. The methodology is described below.

 

Background Information on Setting Speed Limits
(Excerpt from “Speed Zoning Information A Case of Majority Rule (within the United States)”.  Institute of Transportation Engineers)

Generally, traffic laws that reflect the behaviour of the majority of motorists are found to be successful, while laws that arbitrarily restrict the majority of motorists encourage violations, lack public support and usually fail to bring about desirable changes in driving behaviour. This is particularly true when it comes to establishing speed limits.

Speed limits are based on several fundamental concepts deeply rooted within the system of government and law:

  1. driving behaviour is an extension of social attitude and the majority of drivers respond in a safe and reasonable manner as demonstrated by consistently favourable driving records;
  2. the normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable person should be considered appropriate;
  3. laws are established for the protection of the public and the regulation of unreasonable behaviour on the part of individuals; and
  4. laws cannot be effectively enforced without the consent and voluntary compliance of the public majority.

One important objective in setting a speed limit is to inform drivers of a reasonable and safe maximum speed under normal driving conditions. When less than ideal conditions exist, a driver must adjust vehicle speed accordingly as required by provisions of the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act.  

It is a long accepted North American practice to recommend and establish speed limits based on the 85th percentile speed, being the speed at or below which 85% of motorists travel, in conjunction with a detailed engineering analysis of other factors such as collision information. Circumstances such as curves on the road, visibility restrictions, pedestrian and parking activity, and adjacent land uses (e.g., schools, shopping centres, etc.) are factors that determine the speed at which the vast majority of motorists elect to operate their vehicle. A speed limit established on such a basis is also referred to as a “credible speed limit” in that the speed limit matches the image that is inspired by the roadway environment and the traffic operating circumstances encountered. Features of the driving environment that are relevant to a ”credible speed limit” include the roadway width, the number of lanes, lane lining and marking, the presence of adjacent buildings, as well as trees, utility poles and furniture in the boulevard. Long, straight, wide sections of roadways with a smooth surface in an open clear road environment tend to lend themselves to a higher operating speed than is the case where such features are not present.  

Establishing speed limits in this manner has proven to be effective in that it accommodates traffic in a safe and orderly way and enables the Police to focus their enforcement resources toward the 15% of drivers who operate at excessive speeds. Such a criterion recognizes that the majority of motorists operate their vehicle in a reasonable and prudent manner with due consideration for conditions encountered, including activity into and out of intersecting public streets and approaches as well as the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists on or near the roadway. By setting speed limits using the 85th percentile speed, the range of speeds is lessened, providing a more uniform flow of traffic. Studies have shown that:

  • more collisions occur when the speeds of vehicles are varied with extremely high or low speeds encountered [1];
  • setting speed limits lower than that considered reasonable to the majority of drivers encourages disrespect of speed limits in general;
  • posted speed limits which are set higher or lower than that dictated by roadway and traffic conditions are ignored by the majority of motorists; and that
  • when speed limits are raised or lowered, there is very little impact on motorists’ actual speeds.
    • 1U.S. DOT Publication No. FHWA-RD-98-154, 1998

Safe, “credible speed limits” can be expected to enhance motorists’ compliance to the speed limit, which in turn can result in a reduction in collisions than would otherwise be the case. If a speed limit is not credible, motorists will be inclined to elect to drive at a speed that they perceive to be realistic. If speed limits are perceived as being incredible too frequently, it will challenge the public’s trust in the speed limit system generally. A speed limit can be incredible because the speed limit is either perceived as being too low or as being too high.

 

Highway Traffic Board Approval

The Highway Traffic Board considers any application for a speed limit change at a public meeting, the place, date and time of which is advertised in the newspaper. The Board considers the evidence submitted by the applicant; which, in the case of The City of Winnipeg, is the Public Works Department, as well as any public submission either in person or in writing. The applicant is informed of the Board's decision in due course.

The methodology and the process that the Public Works Department follows as described above ensures that, to the greatest extent feasible, consistency is attained in establishing speed limits on our streets.

 

Speed Limit Signing Practice in Winnipeg

As a general rule, the speed limit on streets in the built-up sector of the City is 50 km/h unless otherwise posted (back lanes is 30 km/h). There are signs posted on major arterial routes at entry points to the built-up sector of the City stating:

Urban Speed Area
MAXIMUM
50 km/h
Unless Otherwise Posted

Back Lanes MAXIMUM 30 km/h

The enabling legislation that authorizes The City of Winnipeg to post Urban Speed Area signs to make known to motorists that they are entering the built-up restricted speed area upon which the speed limit on streets is 50 km/h unless otherwise indicated is contained in Section 77(2) of the Highway Traffic Act. Section 77(1) of the Act authorizes the manner in which modified speed limits are to be posted. Excerpts from the Highway Traffic Act are shown below.

BY TRAFFIC AUTHORITIES

Erection of traffic control devices

77(1)       The traffic authority shall erect and maintain such traffic control devices as are reasonably necessary to make known to drivers of motor vehicles the maximum rate of speed permissible on any part of a highway; and the traffic control devices shall be erected and maintained in such a way that they face traffic

  • entering the section of highway where the maximum rate of speed begins; and
  • at intervals, over the length of highway to which they apply.

Restricted speed area sign for Winnipeg

77(2)       The City of Winnipeg may cause to be erected on any highway running from Provincial Trunk Highway 100 or 101, in or towards a restricted speed area lying in the area bounded by those Provincial Trunk Highways, and at the beginning of that restricted speed area,

  • a sign facing traffic that is entering that restricted speed area, indicating that the maximum speed permissible in the restricted speed area is 50 kilometres an hour unless otherwise indicated; and
  • a sign facing traffic that is leaving the restricted speed area to proceed on the highway toward Provincial Trunk Highway 100 or 101, indicating that the traffic, at that place, has left or is about to leave, the restricted speed area.

Signs on designated highways

77(3)       In the case of a highway or portion thereof designated under subsection 97(1), it is sufficient compliance with subsection (1) if there is erected, at each end of the highway or portion thereof,

  • a sign facing traffic entering the designated highway or portion thereof and indicating that the maximum speed permissible therein is 50 kilometres per hour; and
  • a sign facing traffic leaving the designated highway or portion thereof and indicating that that the maximum speed to which reference is made in clause (a) is not thereafter applicable.

Signs in restricted speed areas

77(4)       Where, in a municipality that is otherwise wholly within a restricted speed area, there is or are one or more highways,

  • on which a rate of speed greater than 50 kilometres per hour is permissible; and
  • in respect of which traffic control devices are in place as required under subsection (1);

    it is a sufficient compliance with subsection (1) if there are erected, at each point where a highway to which clause (a) applies crosses the boundary of the municipality,

  • a sign facing traffic entering the municipality, and indicating that the maximum speed permissible in the municipality is 50 kilometres per hour unless otherwise indicated; and
  • a sign facing traffic leaving the municipality, and indicating that the traffic is at that point leaving the municipality.

Signs affecting speed in back lanes

77(5)       Where a municipality has by by-law, made under section 103, fixed a lower rate of speed on back lanes than the speed permissible under subsection 95(1), it is sufficient compliance with subsection (1) if the municipality erects, at each point where a highway crosses the boundary of the municipality or in the case of The City of Winnipeg in accordance with subsection (2), a sign, of the type approved by the traffic board, facing traffic entering the municipality or the city indicating the maximum rate of speed permissible on back lanes in the municipality.

PRESUMPTIONS

Presumption of proper erection of traffic control devices

80          The existence on a highway of a sign, marking, poster, notice, or traffic control device such as is required or permitted by this Act, purporting to regulate the use of the highway in any manner, raises the prima facie presumption that the sign, marking, poster, notice, or traffic control device was duly erected and maintained by the proper authority pursuant to the power given by this Act and in accordance therewith.

In Winnipeg, within the Urban Speed Area, all streets upon which the speed limit has been modified to something other than 50 km/h have been posted with the modified speed limit. There are a number of streets in the built-up area of the City, generally major arterial routes, upon which the speed limit has been modified to a speed limit higher than 50 km/h. The modified speed limit on such streets range from 60 km/h on streets such as Henderson Highway, 70 km/h on streets such as Inkster Boulevard between Keewatin Street and Brookside Boulevard, 80 km/h on streets such as Bishop Grandin Boulevard, 90 km/h on streets such as St. Mary's Road 200 metres south Fraser Road and the southern boundary of the City of Winnipeg. On streets where the speed limit has been modified to a speed limit higher than 50 km/h, the modified speed limit is posted on such a street near major intersecting streets and periodically between major intersecting streets where the distance between the major intersecting streets is significant. 

When a motorist, traveling on a street upon which the speed limit is modified, turns onto an intersecting street (a motorists should be aware that he has entered another street since intersecting streets are identified with a street name sign), the motorist, in the absence of a posting of a speed limit indicating otherwise, must assume the speed limit on the street onto which he has turned is 50 km/h. For instance, on Portage Avenue at Arlington Street upon which the speed limit has been modified to 60 km/h, when a westbound motorist on Portage Avenue turns right onto Arlington Street upon which the speed limit has not been modified and upon which no signs are posted to indicate that the speed limit thereon has been modified, must assume that the speed limit on Arlington Street is 50 km/h and not otherwise. Similarly, on Portage Avenue at Main Street upon which the speed limit has not been modified and is 50 km/h, when an eastbound motorist on Portage Avenue turns left onto Main Street upon which the speed limit has not been modified and upon which no signs are posted to indicate that the speed limit thereon has been modified, must assume that the speed limit on Main Street is 50 km/h and not otherwise. On a street upon which the speed limit has been modified, it is not reasonable to post the modified speed limit on such a street for motorists entering from every intersecting street. In such a case of a motorist entering a street upon which the speed limit has been modified to something other than 50 km/h, in the absence of a posting of a speed limit indicating otherwise, a motorist must assume that the speed limit on the street being entered is 50 km/h until the point at which the modified speed limit is made known to motorists with the modified speed limit posting. As referred to above, the modified speed limit is posted on such a street near major intersecting streets and periodically between major intersecting streets where the distance between the major intersecting streets is significant. 

Approximately 85% of City Streets have a speed limit of 50 km/h and approximately 15% have a speed limit of 60 km/h or greater. As such, the vast majority of the total kilometres of streets in the City have a speed limit of 50 km/h.

Such a system of signing speed limits, identifying the Urban Speed Area and posting of the speed limit only on those streets that have been modified to something other than 50 km/h, eliminates the need to post speed limits on all the numerous kilometres of streets in the City and, therefore, eliminates the significant cost associated with their initial installation and maintenance in perpetuity. Such a system of speed limit signing, which has been in use in Winnipeg for decades, is economical, understandable, and is enforceable.

To selectively post 50 km/h signs on streets upon which the speed limit is 50 km/h would result in two types of 50 km/h streets - those that are signed at 50 km/h, and the hundreds of kilometres of streets that are not signed at 50 km/h. Such inconsistency in signing would erode the “Maximum 50 km/h Unless Otherwise Posted” rule, potentially confusing motorists. As such, since it is not economically feasible to post 50 km/h signs on all streets with a 50 km/h speed limit, they should not be selectively posted on some 50 km/h streets and not on other 50 km/h streets. 

Based on the above information, 50 km/h signing on streets is not required to make such a speed limit known to motorists or to make the speed limit thereon enforceable, other than where the speed limit on a street decreases from a modified speed limit higher than 50 km/h to 50 km/h.

 

Comment on Importance of Enforcement to Secure Traffic Safety

The Public Works Department recognizes the important role that enforcement serves in enhancing traffic safety. It should be noted that enforcement of the speed limit on Winnipeg’s streets is not necessarily limited to the use of Image Capturing Enforcement Devices at certain traffic signal controlled intersections. The speed limit is enforced with an Image Capturing Enforcement Device in areas adjacent to schools and playgrounds and at construction sites. The speed limit is also enforced throughout the street system using radar and laser technology as well as via conventional patrolling in Police vehicles. That is, there is no additional special posting of the speed limit on streets where radar, laser, or conventional Police patrol enforcement is undertaken, and no additional speed limit signing is posted on streets where the speed limit is enforced with an Image Capturing Enforcement Device, other than if such a location is in close proximity to where it is necessary to make known to motorists the existence of a modified speed limit.

The Provincial government has enacted enabling legislation for the use of an “Imaging Capturing Enforcement System” for purposes of enforcing red light and/or speeding at specific locations. Provincial legislation provides for the posting of “Photo-Enforced” signs on streets approaching traffic signal controlled intersections equipped with an “Imaging Capturing Enforcement System”. Use of an “Imaging Capturing Enforcement System” is deemed to be an additional and efficient tool available for use by those who are charged with enforcing the “Rules of the Road” and making our streets as safe as is reasonably achievable.

It should be noted that motorists should be aware that in accordance with The Highway Traffic Act of Manitoba, they are obliged to operate at a speed lower than the speed limit, including lower than the 50 km/h speed limit, if conditions and circumstances so dictate, such as where "any factor exists in the face of which failure to reduce that speed, or to stop the vehicle temporarily, constitutes a danger to any person or property visible to the driver".

Last update: 08.06.2012

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