A Q&A with Dickson Davidson about reducing residential speed limits

Dickson Davidson lead the campaign to reduce the residential speed limit in Hintonburg. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
Dickson Davidson lead the campaign to reduce the residential speed limit in Hintonburg. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

Kitchissippi Times: There are many residents in Kitchissippi who would like to reduce the residential speed limit in their neighbourhood. Can you tell us a bit about the process?

Dickson Davidson: The Hintonburg Community Association  (HCA) received inquiries about how to change the speed limit from residents in different parts of Hintonburg. It appeared that it would make sense to survey/petition the whole of Hintonburg rather than a series of streets. In 2015, we took the opportunity at the HCA’s AGM to ask residents whether they would like the HCA to pursue a 40km/hr speed limit for all residential streets in Hintonburg. The response was almost unanimously in favour of pursuing the speed limit reduction. The HCA contacted the City of Ottawa, who checked with Councillor Jeff Leiper, and we got his support. Then it was time for the paperwork and a series of door-to-door petitions for all residential streets in Hintonburg.

So, we went door to door to get a signature from someone living at the listed addresses, one at a time, until we reached or exceeded the 66% of addresses required to make the change. If an address did not exist or was abandoned, we had a contact at the City who would approve the removal of that address from the petition and thereby reduce the number of signatures required to reach 66% for that street. This had to be tracked. The petitions were collected, compiled, summarized, and submitted to the City. [Click here for a PDF of a sample petition.] Once submitted, it is my understanding they seek the approval of the Councillor. With that approval, the petition goes to council or to a committee where it is verified so changes can be made to speed limit/by-laws and work orders are processed for sign production and installation. I guess we just wait and if they don’t follow through, though I am sure they will follow through, we will advocate for them to follow through.

KT: This initiative involved 13 months of knocking on doors. That’s a lot of conversations with your neighbours! What kind of feedback did you receive? Were there any surprises along the way?

DD: It was a pleasure to meet so many of my neighbours doing this. My experience in collecting about 500 of the required 1250 or so signatures was that people were 99% positive about both the idea of surveying for speed limit reduction, and the door-to-door process of doing it, whether they agreed to a change or wanted the speed limit kept the same at 50 km/hr. I guess that positivity was a pleasant surprise but not unexpected.

KT: So what’s next in this process?

DD: The Hintonburg 40 is complete! Now we wait for the City of Ottawa to make this part of town’s residential streets 40 km/hr and install new signs.

KT: What advice would you give to other communities who want to do the same?

DD: First, survey a significant number of people from the area you want to petition; we surveyed about 100 people at our 2015 AGM. Then, contact your Councillor’s office and let them know a significant number of people from your area supports a petition. The City of Ottawa will provide the paperwork you need. Mobilize your volunteers! They will need to collect signatures door to door, but before you do that it’s a good idea to deliver a notice ahead of time that explains that someone will be coming by with a speed limit reduction survey. Refer to the notice when you come along later, so they know you are not trying to sell them a furnace or gas plan. Be prepared to answer questions and always respect everyone’s option!

It’s also important to establish a regular contact person with the City who can approve changes to the petition when you hit the ground.

The HCA is happy to hear from other community groups who want to change the residential speed limit in their own neighbourhoods. Contact the HCA through their website at hintonburg.com.

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