The city of Montreal is cutting speed limits on many major streets to 40 km/h in the next three years.

It's the latest step in the Vision Zero plan to eliminate collisions between drivers and pedestrians and cyclists that Montreal launched several years ago.

At the announcement Monday, Mayor Valerie Plante said everyone who uses the road needs to be attentive to other road users because traffic is only going to increase as the population grows.

"I want to make sure people get also that it's not a confrontation about who uses the streets and roads. It's about making the best out of it," said Plante. “It is not acceptable that people die crossing a street. It is not acceptable that people die on their bicycle on their way to work.”

The city did not specify Monday which streets would be affected because it still needs to consult with the leaders of Montreal's 19 boroughs, but said certain measures could be in place by the end of this year.

The three-year plan includes:

  • reducing the speed limit on major roads to 40 km/h
  • banning heavy trucks from certain streets
  • improving crosswalk visibility
  • adding countdown timers to pedestrian lights
  • improving pedestrian safety near schools

The city also plans to create a group to analyze deadly collisions in Montreal. According to the city’s data, last year, 212 people were seriously injured on Montreal roads, while 26 died.

Safety measures work: CAA

The proposed measures can make a difference, according to Canada's traffic injury research foundation.

The most common contributing factors in fatal collisions are speed, impairment, and distractions, such as cellphones.

Lowering speed limits, even marginally, will save lives, said Marco Harrison, executive director of the CAA-Quebec Foundation.

“At ten fewer kilometres per hour when you drive a car, if you hit a pedestrian, the chances of survival are doubled or tripled,” he said.

To succeed, any of the new measures the city is announcing will need to be enforced, cautions Harrison.

Commuter traffic has shifted

After many years of growth, the number of bus commuters in Montreal dropped from 2013 to 2018, while the number of people taking the metro, riding bicycles, and driving cars increased.

Analysts have said the severe increase in road construction, especially on the Turcot Interchange, has prompted people to change how they commute.

The upcoming substantial work on the train tracks shared by the Deux-Montagnes and Mascouche railways for construction of the REM is also expected to increase travel time for tens of thousands of commuters.

"The traffic just keeps on growing," said Plante. "There are always more cars, and so there are also more people using the streets now. There are more cyclists and there are more people walking to their work, which is excellent -- because the more people use their bike or walk, it's fewer people in their car and amplifying the traffic."