City watching speed limit debate

Blackfalds, Calgary and Edmonton the latest to consider reduced residential speed limits

City of Red Deer traffic experts are closely watching the results of other communities’ efforts to improve road safety by reducing speed limits in residential areas.

Traffic speeds became a hot issue this week in Edmonton, where two teen girls were run over by a school bus March 8.

The mother of one of the 13-year-old girls made a heartfelt plea on Wednesday to Edmonton council’s community and public services committee to change the speed on the road where her daughter was injured. The girl suffered a skull fracture and brain injury.

After hearing from road safety advocates, councillors proposed reducing the speed limit to 40 km/h from 50 km/h on most residential streets. Collector roads would remain at 50 km/h and playground and school zones would stay at 30 km/h.

Red Deer engineering services manager Konrad Dunbar said the city has a road safety working committee comprised of staff from various departments that looks at all ways to improve safety, including speed limit changes.

“We’re not currently planning on reducing the speed limit to 40 km/h,” Dunbar said on Thursday.

The city opted in 2017 to increase the length of time playground zone speeds are in effect, and matched the hours of zones marked for schools and playgrounds to regular playgrounds.

“Now (school zones) aren’t just during school hours,” he said. “They are all day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. That’s increasing that safety even more.

“What we’ve done is made sure these zones are in place where there are children coming and going. It’s a very consistent message — we want you to drive slow around our children.”

Dunbar said the road safety committee will be monitoring how speed limit changes pan out elsewhere.

“For us, it’s something we want to really keep an eye on,” he said. “I guess we would definitely like to see it be a success.”

The working committee has looked at speed limit changes before. Studies found that to get the most safety benefits, reduced speed limits had to be backed up with enforcement.

Blackfalds is looking at reducing residential speed limits to 40 km/h on most residential streets. It is included in an updated traffic bylaw to be debated by council next week.

There has been pushback in that community. Of the 27 comments the town received through social media on the issue, 25 were opposed to the change. Another person spoke out against lower speed limits at a recent public hearing.

In other communities, opponents of reducing speeds on residential streets have argued that it is not an effective way to improve safety for pedestrians.

Calgary Police Service statistics found 92 per cent of the 64 pedestrians killed on city streets were hit at major intersections. Only eight pedestrians were killed in residential areas.

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