Saskatoon city council votes for 12-hour school zone

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WATCH: Saskatoon city councillors voted to extend 30 km/h school zones, so they take effect from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. despite surveys showing residents oppose the changes – Nov 22, 2021

Changing speeds in school zones may have been as divisive in city chambers as it is outside of city hall.

It took Saskatoon’s city council four separate votes to finally move ahead with changing school zones, despite the fact changing the times the zones are in effect is extremely unpopular.

The council voted 6-5 to expand the 30 km/h zones, which are currently in effect from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., to 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and to have those hours in effect year-round.

Council also voted to remove lower speed zones for high schools on arterial roads.

Most secondary schools are on those busier streets, Mayor Charlie Clark told the council on Monday.

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It fell to Clark, since the mayor votes last, to break the deadlock all four times.

The original report from the administration suggested changing the window to 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.

A motion from Ward 1’s Darren Hill proposed retaining the original time and moving ahead with the rest of the proposals, which include improving safety for seniors without using speed zones and creating speed zones for playgrounds.

Councillors voted down that motion 6-5, as well as one to extend the window one hour, to 6 p.m.

Eventually councillors Hilary Gough, Cynthia Block, Mairin Loewen, Sarina Gersher, Beverly Dubois and Clark voted for the 12-hour amendment.

Then they had to vote for it again to push it through as a motion.

Dubois, the chair of the city’s transportation committee, told the council the issue arose out of the findings of more than 70 neighbourhood traffic reviews.

“The most common concern raised by residents is speed of vehicles on neighbourhood streets,” she said.

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Gough, speaking in favour of the motion, urged the council to think carefully about whether additional travel time is worth the added safety around some of these most vulnerable spaces.

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“I hear from a lot of parents who say that they actually don’t feel safe letting their kids walk to the park because of the traffic safety concerns.

But the vote ignores city surveys that show changing the times is deeply unpopular.

A poll, included in the documents presented to council, showed 80 per cent of the more than 14,000 online respondents and nearly 70 per cent of the 400-odd residents who voiced their opinion through forums, preferred to keep the same times.

Regardless, the vote sends the issue to next week’s city budget talks for funding and charges the administration with preparing the bylaw for final approval.

The report states the change is scheduled to be implemented next year.

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