COUNCIL’S BLANKET APPROACH TO SPEEDING LACKS COMMON SENSE
Whoa! Slow down, Calgary city council. Slam on the brakes to your plan of lowering speed limits in all residential neighbourhoods by 20 km/ h.
Coun. Druh Farrell’s motion in favour of lowering residential speed limits from 50 km/ h to 30 km/ h is taking things too fast on the issue of slowing down. City council had a heavy agenda Monday and it was decided to put off debate on this issue until Tuesday. Whew! Saved by the clock.
However, one of the community activists who helped get council rushing down this road of across-the-board slowness is not pushing for a city-wide slowdown at all and neither should city councillors.
Leah Murray, a marketing and communications strategist who lives in the southwest community of Garrison Green, says she doesn’t think slowing down traffic to 30 km/ h in all residential neighbourhoods is necessary. But, she does want the city to hurry up when it comes to solving serious issues of speeding that arise in specific areas of concern.
In other words — like most of us — Murray wants city council to deftly use a scalpel to solve legitimate concerns in our city rather than a chainsaw. On Forand Street, where Murray lives, half of the street already has a limit of 30 km/ h and the other half — where the real safety issues for kids exists — sits at 50 km/h.
Murray says when the road was closed recently — while the new ATCO building off Crowchild Trail was being built — Ward 11 Councillor Brian Pincott told the community that the road would become 30 km because of the nearby park. But when the road was reopened, the posted speed was 50 km/ h.
The community, filled with young families, complained. The city responded that the road didn’t meet the criteria for a 30 km/ h zone.
However, the city then built a basketball court near the road, which should mean the road now qualifies as one that could have a speed limit of 30 km/h, “but the city won’t re-address it,” said Murray.
If the city’s bureaucracy was more flexible to address repeated concerns for safety in unique neighbourhoods, even if every needed criteria was not always met, then these blanket-type solutions — such as the one currently being debated — would not be needed.
An exception to all of the rules should be made for Forand Street, for instance, because it is both an on-ramp and off-ramp to Crowchild Trail, where the speed limit is 80 km/ h and drivers are either velocitized coming off the highway or accelerating to join it.
“A couple of neighbours and I have seen kids push the button and start walking through the crosswalk and cars will gun it so they don’t have to stop,” explained Murray, who has two grandchildren, aged three and one, living on the same block. “There have been some close calls.
“If you wave at these dangerous drivers, then you get the finger. I’ve been called an old hag, someone called me a b----, someone tried to run my neighbour down because they were mad that he tried to make them slow down. The driver yelled, ‘What do you want me to do, slow down to 25?’ And my neighbour said, ‘Well, when someone is crossing the crosswalk, yes.’”
Actually, the rule of the road is when someone enters a crosswalk, drivers must wait until the pedestrian reaches the other side before the driver can proceed.
Clearly, one only has to visit Forand Street to realize — criteria or not — that the speed limit should be reduced. The unique aspects of that community and that stretch of road make that obvious.
Common sense — applied even in small doses — could save the entire city from being saddled with Coun. Druh Farrell’s solution looking for a problem rather than the other way around.
Coun. Shane Keating said he intends to introduce an amendment to Farrell’s motion recommending that instead of dropping the speed limit on residential roads by a whopping 20 km/ h, it should be lowered by just 10 km/ h to 40 km/ h on roads without painted lines on them. All residential roads with painted lines on them would remain at 50 km/ h except in playground zones, where the speed limit will remain at 30 km/ h.
Of course pedestrians stand a much better chance of survival if they’re struck by a vehicle travelling at 30 km/ h versus 50, as many proponents of lowering the speed limit have said. They also stand a much better chance of surviving if that car is only travelling at one km/ h, too.
Where there are people, pets and particularly children near a road, drivers should smarten up and slow down. As for council, it should throw this baby into reverse when it comes to implementing any change to the speed limit and address specific neighbourhoods of concern instead.
One size never fits all. Neither does one speed.
Council will debate on Tuesday a notice of motion seeking to lower the speed limit on neighbourhood streets to 30 km/h.