A University of Calgary study that looked at data before and after school and playground speed zone hours were combined and changed to one year-round time found a decrease in average speed and collisions.
Prior to 2014, school zones in Calgary were in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and playground zones were in effect from 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset.
The study explains school and playground zone hours were changed to one consistent time as of Sept. 1, 2014 in an effort to improve pedestrian safety.
By March 2016, all school zones were changed to playground zones, which are now in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-around and have a speed limit of 30 km/h.
The study gathered data from September 2013 to August 2014 as “before data” and from November 2015 to October 2016 as “after data.” The data was collected from 11 playground zones and 18 school zones.
Results showed a decrease in average speed from 35.9 km/h to 30.1 km/h and a deviation dropping from 11.7 km/h to 6.7 km/h.
Thirty pedestrians were involved in collisions in school and playground zones before the harmonization; 20 were involved after.
“The results showed that the collision rate decreased after harmonization: the collision rate dropped from 0.049 collisions per million kilometres of vehicle travel per year to 0.011 collisions per million kilometres of travel per year throughout the city,” reads the study.
“When we observed the number of collisions per kilometres from 2009 to 2016 in school and playground zones, the rate was highest in 2013, which was possibly due to the high snowfall that year. The collision rate decreased after 2013; the new consistent zone times might have helped in terms of reducing the collision rate.”
The study also found over 80 per cent of people who completed an online survey found it easier to remember the zone times when it was one consistent time throughout the week.
The chair of the city’s transportation committee said he thinks the change has become a standard in the minds of drivers, despite some initial unease.
“Even though it extends a little bit into the evening, which many people were not happy about, a lot of these schools have a lot of activities going on in the evenings,” Councillor Shane Keating said of the zone hours. “What this did is it actually took away – ‘Well can I go 50 or can I go 30?’
“When you looked at the benefits of what it actually did, I think it far outweighs the minor inconvenience that drivers had.”