Attachment 1

City of Ottawa Speed Zoning Policy

Approved By


Approval Date




Effective Date




Revision Date



policy statement             


This Policy establishes appropriate speed limits for Urban and Rural Roads and establishes school speed zones through a community engagement process.




This Policy serves to:

  • Establish appropriate and consistent speed limits for similar types of roads and adjacent development throughout the City of Ottawa, including residential local streets, collectors, major collectors, arterials, rural gravel roadways, and those within school zones.
  • Streamline the speed zoning process
  • Empower the Community through an engagement approach




All City Urban and Rural Roads.


policy requirements


1. Establishing Speed Limits on Roadways


The criteria for determining speed limits are based upon finding a safe and reasonable speed limit for existing conditions.  The safe speed limit depends upon the number and type of hazards or conflicts that the driver may encounter at any one time.


A road study will determine the appropriate speed limit and should consider the speed characteristics of the users of the road, the design speed, the number of intersecting streets on the section of the road under consideration, and the length of the speed zone. 


For many roads, a speed spot study, also known as a minimum study may be sufficient to determine the appropriate speed limit.


a)     The minimum study should also include a determination of:


(i)   the speed for which the roadway is designed


(ii)  the average distance between intersections


(iii) the length of the road section which is under study and which is representative of the characteristics of item b (ii).


Consideration of these factors may, in some cases, be sufficient to establish an appropriate speed limit on a road section; however, a more detailed study may be warranted under certain circumstances.


A detailed speed study also known as a traffic engineering study may be required to determine the speed limit where unusual roadway or land use characteristics suggest that the speed limit, as determined from the minimum study, seems inappropriate.  In this situation, the following processes are in effect:


b)     The traffic engineering study should consist, in part, of determining:


(i)    the existing speed limit


(ii)   the 85th percentile speed


(iii)    the pace speed range containing the largest percentage of vehicles in a survey of spot speeds.


Under no circumstances should the speed limit over a section of road exceed the limit for which the road is designed.  Although roads that have isolated curves may have a lower speed limit than that of the major part of the road being evaluated.  In these cases, curve warning and advisory speed signs will be posted in accordance with the standards contained in the Ontario Traffic Manual.


The design speed on a roadway is based on the sight distance limitations imposed on vertical curves (hills) and horizontal curves that are the determinants of the safe stopping distances.  Intersection spacing on an arterial roadway is a major element in the operation of a roadway but not a determinant in establishing the design speed of a road.  In establishing a speed limit, intersection spacing should be recognized in relation to the length of the speed zone under consideration.


Additional elements that can be considered in a traffic engineering study of speed zoning for a road section include:


  • number of driveways per kilometre
  • lane width
  • street classification
  • median design
  • shoulder type and width
  • presence of sidewalks and degree of pedestrian and cycling activity
  • parking activity
  • general horizontal and vertical alignment
  • collision rate


Since the speed characteristics of a road section, as determined from spot surveys of vehicle speeds, are indicative of drivers’ behaviour influenced by the frequency of driveways, pedestrian activity, etc., there is no rationale for applying   adjustment factors to any of the speed characteristic elements.


There is however, a basis for applying an adjustment factor to a speed limit as determined by the design speed of the roadway and modified by the consideration of the number of intersecting streets in relation to the length of the speed zone.  This method should be applied to newly constructed roads.


For this purpose, empirical relationships and adjustment factors have been established to attempt to give some relative weight to each element and show the numerical influence each separate element might reasonably have on the establishment of a speed limit.  The factors are set out in Tables A-1 to A-12 inclusive in Appendix A.  The method to establish speed limits is found in Appendix B.


The following guideline will be used to determine the speed limit for each class of roadway within the City, as defined in the Transportation Master Plan:

a. Local Roads  40 km/h Speed Limit


Within a residential neighbourhood, the request to change the speed limit will affect all residents of the street and therefore, it is important to determine if there is a consensus among residents.


To ensure a fair and equitable response to the numerous speed related inquires received by the Department of Public Works within residential communities, on local streets or minor neighbourhood collectors, any review of a speed limit will be based not on individual requests, but rather by petition proving consensus that 75% of residents support a change in the speed limit on the roadway in question. Where this consensus is achieved, the speed limit will be lowered to 40 km/h.


b. Collector Roads 40 km/h Speed Limit


The residential 40 km/h speed limit warrant shall be used to determine if 40 km/h is an appropriate speed limit for the collector roadway.   The criteria used to evaluate the warrant are shown in Appendix C; the 40 km/h residential warrant inventory form is shown in Appendix D; and the 40 km/h residential warrant analysis form is shown in Appendix E.


c. Major Collector and Arterial Roads


To determine the appropriate speed limit on a major collector and arterial road, the 85th percentile operating speed will be used as a basis for evaluation.


The flow chart in Appendix E illustrates the process City staff follow to review a speed limit related inquiry and the timelines associated with these reviews.


Setting Speed Limits on Rural Roadways Other than Arterials


The review of speed limits on rural paved roads will be based on the summary tables found in Appendix A to determine the appropriate speed limit on any given roadway and take into consideration, but are not limited to, the 85th percentile speed, pavement width, shoulder width and degree of pedestrian activity, community and police input in recommending an appropriate and safe speed limit.


The speed limit on gravel roadways will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Should there be a sufficient number of vehicles (typically a minimum of 30 vehicles per direction within a two-hour time period), a spot speed survey will be undertaken to confirm the average speed and the 85th percentile speed of traffic to provide a good starting point and assess the speed limit level.  In addition to the speed survey, a thorough review of warning and regulatory signing will be undertaken.


2. School Speed Zones


The School Speed Zone program is applicable to elementary, middle and high schools and consists of warning signs, a reduced speed limit and in some instances, flashing beacons. .  The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) prepared the “School and Playground Areas and Zones: Guidelines for Application and Implementation” in October, 2006and these guidelines will be used to determine if a school zone is to be installed.  In some instances, there are other mitigating factors present that are not contemplated by the TAC guidelines.  These are taken into account on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with each school principal, parent advisory council and student representatives.


At schools located on rural arterial roadways and locations meeting the warrants for the school speed zones will be supplemented with flashing beacons to provide higher visibility on these high speed roadways.  As well, for any roadway, the reduction of the speed limitwithin a school speed zone, will never be greater than 20 km/h, in accordance with the Highway Traffic Act.  


Should a reduced speed limit be warranted, as per tables 1 and 2 in Appendix F, the new speed limit will be implemented on school days only.  As school hours vary by individual school regardless of school board, in urban areas the reduced speed limit will be standardized to encompass both early start times and late end of day times. 

In this way, drivers will not be confused by seemingly random time periods. Standard hours of operation will also assist police enforcement activity in school zones.


Accordingly, the operation of reduced school speed zones will be on school days, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  In rural areas, the time of the reduced speed limit will be determined in consultation with the school principal.  Appendix F provides information and the guidelines to establish school zones and areas.




City Staff are to use this Policy to establish speed limits and school speed zones on City of Ottawa roadways.







Speed Zoning Engineering Technical Research Report for Rural and Urban Roads in the City of Ottawa, August 2009

School and Playground Areas and Zones: Guidelines for Application and Implementation, Transportation Association of Canada, October 2006

Ontario Traffic Manual Series

US Document- FHAW


legislative and administrative authorities

Highway Traffic Act

40 km/h Residential Warrant Report, Approved by City of Ottawa Council, October 2003

City of Ottawa Speed Zoning Report October 2009




Adjustment Factors – established to give relative weight to each element (number of intersections, pavement width, pedestrian activity, etc.) and show the numerical influence each separate element might reasonably have on the establishment of a speed limit.


Advisory Speed Limit – the maximum safe speed that is posted below a warning sign.  In most jurisdictions, the advisory speeds are not legally enforceable, but in some courts violation of the advisory speeds is admissible as evidence that the driver was operating in a reckless manner.


Average Overall Speed – the average of the overall speeds of all vehicles on a given roadway during a specified period of time.


Design Speed – Is the safe speed at which a road can be negotiated.  A speed selected for the purposes of design and correlation of the geometric features of a road.


85th Percentile Speed –speed at or below which 85 percent of vehicles travel.


Operating Speed –highest overall speed exclusive of stops at which a driver can travel on a given highway under prevailing conditions without, at any time, exceeding the design speed.


Spot Speed the speed of a vehicle as it passes a spot or point on a street or highway.



keyword search

Speed Limit

Residential warrant

School speed zone

85th percentile speed




For more information on this Policy, contact:

Program Manager, Traffic, Engineering & Technical Service Unit,

Doug Bowron, 613-580-2424 x.13926





Appendix A: Factors to Establish Speed Limits

Appendix B: Method to Establish Speed Limits

Appendix C: 40 km/h Residential Warrant

Appendix D: 40 km/h Residential Warrant Inventory Form and Warrant Analysis Form

Appendix E: Process to Review Speed Limits and General Timelines to Implement

Appendix F: Information on establishing school zones and areas