‘Ottawa’ Not all Councillors Happy With School Zone Photo Radar Motion
A plan to ask the provincial government for permission to use photo radar in school zones on a trial basis doesn’t go far enough for some city councillors.
“Something is better than nothing,” is how River ward Coun. Riley Brockington summed up the transportation committee’s four-hour debate on Wednesday.
Speeding is an issue across the city and efforts to curb it have, so far, fallen short, he says. His view is that photo radar is just another tool the city could use to enforce speed on its streets, if the province was so inclined.
But Brockington’s motion was sidelined even before the committee meeting began after Mayor Jim Watson issued a statement saying he’d been working behind-the-scenes with transportation committee chairman Keith Egli on a different motion.
Watson says he only supports a request for photo radar powers if it comes with the two caveats: it must be a pilot project in a school zone and the money from fines must fund road safety programs.
“If they aren’t, then I won’t support it because I don’t want this to, what should be a safety measure, turn into a cash grab for the city,” he said.
Watson said school zones make the most sense for a pilot project.
“Schools are where the most vulnerable people in our society are. They’re rushing to get to the school bus, they may be rushing to get to the playground to see their child, and a speeding car can have horrible consequences,” the mayor said.
The committee unanimously approved the motion, though not without trepidation among some.
“This motion could be stronger,” Brockington said. “School zones is a good start … but we need to come to terms with the speeding problem in this city.”
Capital Coun. David Chernushenko suggested the definition of “school zone” is too narrow and wouldn’t cover the streets children use to get to school.
In the Glebe, which he represents, hundreds cross Bank Street every day, while drivers frequently abuse the street’s speed limit, he said. But Bank wouldn’t qualify.
“You can’t declare an entire neighbourhood a school zone and yet you’ve missed the biggest, most frequently-mentioned problem street in the entire ward by just going with a pilot in school zones,” he said.
Construction zones, intersections with high rates of collisions, stretches of roadway with a history of speeding and locations deemed unsafe for traditional enforcement also wouldn’t qualify as part of the pilot, Brockington said.
“There are streets in my ward that photo radar should be an option to enforce speed limits and that will not be covered off as part of this motion, so that’s a concern,” he said.
Egli called the motion a compromise that “opened the door” to a new way of dealing with speed. “The one thing we can all agree on is speed is a major concern in every ward,” he said.
Asked if he has softened his position on photo radar, Watson said he’s been consistent on making sure the city wouldn’t use the measure solely to tap revenue from motorists.
Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi was also non-committal when asked whether he supported the call for photo radar in Ottawa.
But following the committee’s vote, his office issued a statement commending the city for “taking the bold step to help improve road safety in our community.”
He pledged to push for the necessary legislative changes to allow the city to proceed with the pilot project.
If council upholds the committee’s decision and the province ultimately grants the request, it could take up to a year to get a pilot project up and running, the city says.