City of Lethbridge exploring school zone changes: ‘This is definitely a right move’

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City of Lethbridge exploring school zone changes: ‘This is definitely a right move’
WATCH: As part of its transportation safety plan, the city of Lethbridge is exploring harmonized playground and school zones. If changed, current school zones in the city would become playground zones with reduced speed limits year-round. Erik Bay has more. – Jan 23, 2023

Lethbridge drivers could be the ones learning next school year as city administration explores harmonizing the area by changing regulations of school and playground zones.

“We want to make sure that we eliminate or reduce significantly serious injuries or fatalities,” said Ahmed Ali, transportation engineering manager with the city.

School zones are in effect from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on school days, while playground zones operate between 8:30 a.m. in the morning until one hour after sunset every day.

The idea is to convert all school zones to playground zones with the 30 km/h speed limit in effect daily from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. in all playground zones.

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“Schools have playground equipment and schools also have programs after school so the kids are not just there at school from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. — they’re there on the weekends and after school hours as well,” Ali said.

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“Drivers are going to be slowing down when they’re going through those sections,” said Allison Purcell, Lethbridge School Division’s board chair.

“That consistency for drivers to know that no matter where they’re driving in the city, when they come upon a school zone or a playground zone it’s the consistent amount of time (in effect).”

Both the Lethbridge and Holy Spirit Catholic School Divisions are on board with the potential change.

“We have students out in our communities availing themselves of the parks and playing fields,” said Holy Spirit superintendent of schools Ken Sampson.

Several other Alberta municipalities have already made the switch, including Coaldale, Medicine Hat and Calgary, which finished consolidating school and playground zones in 2016.

The University of Calgary conducted a study the next year, finding the average traffic speed in playground zones dropped after harmonization from 35.9 km/h to 30.1 km/h.

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The city of Lethbridge is collecting feedback on the potential change through an online survey until the end of January.

Findings are expected to be brought before council in March.

If changes are approved, the harmonized playground zones would be in effect in time for the 2023-24 school year.

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