Thursday, September 3, 2015

Living at a sustainable pace

Last week I became a moving speed bump. Perhaps some had already marked me in that category, but now it’s official.
Actually, I signed on as a “Neighbourhood Pace Car Driver.” This means I have a caution sign in the back window of my car, and have pledged to keep to the speed limit on all municipal roads. So if you’re behind me and want to speed, you’ll have to change lanes, or follow me at the limit until we part ways. The street receives the same traffic-calming benefit as a speed hump, without the unnecessary braking or wear on your suspension, and without cost to the taxpayer.
This program is sponsored by Parachute Canada, a national charity formed in 2012 through the amalgamation of four existing programs, each of which dealt with some aspect of injury prevention: Safe Communities Canada, Safe Kids Canada, ThinkFirst Canada and SMARTRISK. Realizing the similarity and overlap of their goals, they combined their experience and expertise as Parachute so they can achieve greater impact in awareness, advocacy, and action in the vital cause of injury prevention. Pace Cars are a program that combines all three elements by raising public awareness, advocating for safer road use, and acting directly to slow down speeders.
Nova Scotian Pace Car drivers start young,
according to the Truro Daily News
I recognize that my driving impacts the livability of other residents’ streets, just as theirs impacts mine. As a neighbourhood pace car driver, I agree to drive the posted speed limit, stop to let pedestrians cross, and generally be courteous to other road users, like cyclists. I also minimize my own car use by combining trips, using transit or car pooling, and walking or cycling (active transportation) whenever possible.
My Pace Car sticker on the back of the car lets other drivers know why I am not exceeding the posted limit, and hopefully helps them understand why I am setting a more leisurely pace on the streets where we and our families live, work, and play. More generally, it indicates that I care for others by keeping courtesy and safety in mind as I drive. In some ways it’s akin to neighbourhood watch or block parent programs, as I take part directly in helping improve the safety of those around me.
I assumed it would be simple, as I have never been a leadfoot on city streets. (We won’t speak of expressways here). Nevertheless, now more speed-conscious, I notice many roads where my natural or “comfortable” speed is 5-10 km above the posted limit, so I must actively ensure I dial it back a bit. Luckily, the cruise control function largely takes care of this for me.
One side benefit is that, through slower and more aware driving, I get even further on each battery charge (or litre of gas) in my Volt, so I’m also helping reduce energy demand, smog, and greenhouse gas emissions.
If you like the sound of this, and are interested in becoming a Neighbourhood Pace Car driver yourself, contact local community coordinator Sherrie Osmond ( ) to sign up in Barrie, or if you want to start up or connect with the program in another community, contact Julie Taylor ( at the national office. It’s time to rally around the safety of our families and our neighbourhoods as we walk, wheel, cycle or drive!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Keeping pace can keep us all safer on the roads"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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