A city committee voted Wednesday to reduce Calgary residential speed limits.
Under a proposed bylaw, the unposted speed limit within Calgary would drop to 40 from 50 km/h and apply to residential streets. The city would post signs along collector roads indicating a 50 km/h speed limit.
Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison said this is a direct response to Calgarians’ concerns about neighbourhood safety.
“The number one thing we heard in the last election was: ‘Make our roads safer, but do it in a cost-effective way.’”
The transportation and transit committee heard that pedestrians are over-represented in collisions in the city.
“We found that approximately 25 per cent pedestrians are injured on neighborhood roadways,” Tony Churchill, Calgary’s traffic safety lead, told the committee Wednesday. “Those collisions result in 35 per cent of the injuries and fatalities for pedestrians across our entire network.
“Not only are [pedestrians] over-represented — because pedestrians only account for four per cent of involvement in collisions overall — they’re more likely to be injured, and that’s even more pronounced in neighboqurhood areas.”
Residential streets are described as streets whose focus is accessing residences. Collector roads are usually larger thoroughfares traversing communities, often with strip malls and bus lines. The city’s website has maps by ward that illustrate how some of the speed limits could change.
The committee looked at a number of scenarios and methods to increase safety on neighourhood roads, and settled on a cost-effective, incremental choice.
It will cost $2.3 million to install new signage at city limits and along collector roads — funds already in the city’s transportation budget earmarked for improving road safety.
“That investment of $2.3 million to change the signage, we anticipate will result in annual savings of $8.1 million in collisions,” Churchill told reporters.
Churchill told committee the associated costs represents about a half a percentage point of the city’s budget for roads, traffic and parking — not the entire transportation budget.
Churchill said his team anticipates high compliance from drivers once these changes take effect and following a public education campaign.
“We also anticipate small trip changes of less than a couple minutes.”
Calgary city council has been considering lowering residential speed limits to 40 km/h since at least 1982.
Since 2013, Calgary has averaged 550 collisions with casualties — collisions with fatalities and serious injury — per year.
“I’m very mindful that our analysis shows that the two years I’ve been doing the speed limit review for you represents more than 1,000 life-changing — or, in a few cases, life-ending incidents — on our neighbourhood roadways during that period,” Churchill told committee.
Davison, the committee chair, said the idea to turn Calgary roads into one big playground zone is “categorically false.”
“For those who want to say this is about creating playground zones throughout the city, I would highly suggest they go and educate themselves on what a playground zone is. This is not that,” Davison said.
“This is about slowing down residential speed to a reasonable level.”
The proposed bylaw will be discussed by city council on Nov. 2 before being made a bylaw.