Data shows Calgarians driving slower two years after speed limit change

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Data shows Calgarians driving slower two years after speed limit change
Calgarians are driving slower, according to new data from the City of Calgary. As Adam MacVicar report, it comes two years since the default residential speed limit was lowered to 40km/h. – Jun 28, 2023

Two years after the City of Calgary lowered the default residential speed limit to 40km/h, new data shows that Calgarians are driving slightly slower.

The numbers, included in a briefing to city councillors, reveal that observed speeds on both collector roads and residential streets are down between 0.8  km/h and 2.5 km/h.

The briefing noted the reduction may sound small, but is a “promising leading indicator of safer outcomes” on Calgary streets.

Tony Churchill, the City of Calgary’s mobility safety coordinator, said the preliminary numbers show drivers are adhering to the speed limit change.

“It’s in line with what we expected given that we just changed the default speed limit and some of the signage on the collector roads, without doing any traffic calming,” Churchill said.

This comes after a hotly contested debate in 2021, when Calgary city council voted to lower the default residential speed limit from 50km/h to 40km/h.

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It had an effect on approximately 3,200 km of residential roadways and 340 km of collector roads, which typically have a yellow line or bus route on them.

The rest of the 1,300km of collector roads remained at 50 km/h, with posted signage to remind drivers.

According to the briefing, the city installed over 5,200 signs between Feb 1 and May 31, 2021, when the reduced speeds took effect.

Those changes were welcomed by the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association (BRCA), in a neighbourhood consistently experiencing quick drivers using the area as a shortcut between Memorial Drive and Edmonton Trail.

“The difference between 50km/h and 40km/h, if you’re going to go through the two-kilometre zone like it is here in Bridgeland, is about 30 seconds longer if you’re doing the speed limit,” BRCA president Alex MacWilliam told Global News. “I don’t think it’s a big deal to motorists.  It shouldn’t be.”

MacWilliam said the hope amongst many Bridgeland residents is a speed reduction on 9 Street. N.E., a collector road in the community, from 50/km to 40km/h due to many speeders exiting off Memorial Drive into the neighbourhood.

According to the city, it’s received up to 60 requests to review the speed limit on certain residential and collector roads over the last two years.

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Fifty-eight of those requests were to lower the speed limit to 40km/h, with two aimed at increasing the speed limit to 50km/h.

“Creating safe streets and communities should apply equally to all streets,” Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said. “That is what we’re hearing from Calgarians; we’re not hearing about a complaint down to 40km/h but we’re hearing those roads at 50km/h didn’t get to 40km/h.”

Churchill said despite the modest reductions, the hope is for a greater effect on collisions especially in residential areas.

“Even though they’re small kilometer values, when we look at that as a percentage of the operating speed, it’s larger,” Churchill said. “We expect that to result in an even larger measurable change in collisions.”

However, city officials don’t have that collision data just yet, but a preliminary review of that data will be included in a Safer Mobility Plan coming to city council later this year.

The briefing said that data would be required to paint a more robust picture of the effect of lower speed limits in Calgary.

City officials said new design standards for new construction and retrofit of existing roadways, like curb extensions, could also support a reduction in speed.

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It was noted that work is ongoing to determine if Calgary should reduce the default residential speed limit below 40km/h, but a proposal on that matter isn’t expected anytime soon.

A final evaluation of the neighbourhood speed limit change will be presented to city council at the end of 2024.

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