Slower residential traffic speeds lead to safer communities.
That is the rationale a growing number of communities, including Blackfalds, are using to build cases for residential speed limit reductions.
Last November, Blackfalds town council formally passed a resolution to lower the speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h on most residential streets. Exceptions were made for arterial roads and school and playground zones.
“Council’s objective through this decision was to increase the safety of our residents through the reduction of speed limits,” Mayor Richard Poole said in a statement at the time.
“The speed reduction has been endorsed by the Blackfalds Policing Committee, Blackfalds Enforcement Services, our local RCMP detachment, and as well has been a long standing issue of concern by our residents.”
Slowing down motorists in residential areas has been happening elsewhere. Airdrie, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria have made the switch to 40 km/h or 30 km/h.
The reduced speed limit is included in a sweeping traffic bylaw that has been debated by Blackfalds council recently and went to a public hearing on March 12. Enough questions arose from the public and council members at that meeting that it was referred back to council to hash out in committee.
Changing the speed limit is only one of the issues councillors were looking for clarity on. Some questioned a proposal to have 30 km/h in effect in playground zones from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. or one hour after sunset. Whether a year-round 9 p.m. deadline was necessary in winter months was debatable, some suggested.
Whether additional enforcement should be considered and penalties were other issues.
The traffic bylaw will go back to council next Tuesday.
Poole said earlier this week he has not changed his mind on the 40 km/h initiative. “Personally, I’m in favour.”
Not all in the community welcomed the change.
“We had some pushback on social media. Council has passed a resolution (in favour of 40 km/h) so therefore from that resolution we’re still looking at moving ahead.”
To reverse that, council would have to vote down its earlier resolution.
“Whether the bylaw passes or not that will depend on the next council meeting.”
Statistics show that collisions at 40 km/h do less damage and cause less severe injuries, especially to pedestrians and cyclists, than at the 50 km/h residential speed limit standards in thousands of Canadian communities.
Calgary council wrestled with this issue last fall and ended up voting 8-6 to lower the speed limit from 50 km/h to either 40 km/h or 30 km/h. Transportation staff are expected to bring a report back to council this spring with recommendations on the speed limit and which streets should be included.
The switch was pitched as a way to reduce the frequency and severity of collisions and improve the city’s walkability.
However, the initiative proved contentious with one councillor saying it smacked of “anti-car ideology.”