Councillors voted Wednesday to implement a default speed limit of 40 km/h in most of Edmonton’s residential neighbourhoods.
It will also apply to core roads like Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue.
“None of this is talking about the roads we’re commuting on,” Councillor Andrew Knack said.
“We’re talking about the roads that exist in front of our homes and, to me, I feel very comfortable setting that at the same speed limit as we are comfortable for a playground zone in our communities.”
The 8-5 vote that was carried was for the 40 km/h limit to be applied in the core zone, outside the core zone and in high-pedestrian and main street areas.
The core zone includes neighbourhoods like Glenora, Belgravia and Avonmore.
“I had been open to the core zone and looking at some other options,” Councillor Bev Esslinger said. “However, when we asked the police today, their preference was one zone they could enforce. I don’t think we wanted 30 (km/h) outside of the core so it seemed logical to go to 40 throughout the whole city.
“We’ve heard the desire from the public to reduce speed, so going to some choice this is a step in that journey for us it aligns with Vision Zero so I feel really confident in where we are going,” Esslinger added.
“That’s the way we can enforce it and educate and change the culture. It seemed to be logical to make it easier for drivers; not more complicated,” she said.
It will take 11 months from the approval of the bylaws for changes to the default speed limit to come into effect. The city expects the speed limit on residential roads will change to 40 km/h in mid-2021.
“But my residents are telling me that they don’t want to fix something that’s not broken.”
Most of those areas are currently 50 km/h, aside from marked school and playground zones.
A suggestion of a 30 km/h zone was rejected by councillors Wednesday.
Councillor Mike Nickel, who voted against the change to 40 km/h, said he was beside himself. He described the decision being “about feelings; not facts” and called it a one-size-fits-all approach to speed reductions.
“One-size-fits-all policies use a hammer to swat flies,” Nickel said, adding pedestrian-car safety is a shared responsibility.
Edmonton was considering two recommendations that would reduce speed limits in parts of the city.
The first recommendation was to drop the speed limit to 40 km/h on all residential roads. The other recommendation was to target a smaller area but take the speed down to 30 km/h.
In the first scenario, Edmonton would apply a default speed limit of 40 km/h in residential neighbourhoods, which are mostly 50 km/h presently.
This change would not affect roadways that are set at 60 km/h or higher or arterial roads.
There are also some exception roadways. City administration will evaluate residential collector roads to determine if some should remain at 50 km/h.
In the second scenario, what the city defines as “the core zone” would have had a 30 km/h limit.
“The enforcement side can get very confusing for motorists,” Acting Insp. Geoff Mittelsteadt said on Wednesday.
“When we start posting different signs from entry and exit points, when you’re trying to enforce that… you have to document where those entry and exit points are going to be to be enforceable. There can be an easy argument from a motorist’s point when it does go to court.”
Police said they get about 5,000 traffic complaints a year.
Julie Kusiek, from Livable Streets Edmonton, said she was hoping to see a default speed limit of 30 km/h in the “core zone.” She added that she “would have been OK with council deciding 30, 40 or 50 (km/h) for the rest of Edmonton.”
However, she also noted that “if consistency is the important thing, then the most consistent speed limit we can have in Edmonton is, in fact, 30 km/h because that aligns with our speed limits in our playground zones.”
“Lowering speed limits creates safe, livable streets for everyone,” said Jessica Lamarre, acting director of Traffic Safety.
“Reducing speeds makes our streets calmer, quieter and safer for people walking, biking, driving and enjoying their neighbourhood. Safe, livable streets help us reach our goal of Vision Zero where safety is the priority.
“Speed reduction reduces the frequency and severity of collisions and saves Edmontonians millions of dollars in their associated costs.”