30 km/h speed limit? Not so fast

Slow­ing cars on res­i­den­tial streets gains sup­port, but by how much open to de­bate

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - YOLANDE COLE

As a call to lower res­i­den­tial speed lim­its to 30 km/h is sched­uled to be de­bated at city hall this week, the coun­cil­lor propos­ing the idea says the is­sue could be handed back to ad­min­is­tra­tion to make rec­om­men­da­tions for speed re­duc­tions on neigh­bour­hood streets.

Coun. Druh Far­rell, who pro­posed a city­wide 30 km/h de­fault speed limit for neigh­bour­hood streets, said there is broad sup­port on coun­cil for low­er­ing the limit, but that there may be a de­sire among some to amend the mo­tion, ask­ing city ad­min­is­tra­tion for rec­om­men­da­tions “for how to make both res­i­den­tial streets and col­lec­tor streets safer.”

“There seems to be . . . a clear ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors who want a lower speed limit, so there’s a com­mit­ment to a lower speed,” Far­rell said. "But the whole dis­cus­sion around col­lec­tors is per­haps more chal­leng­ing, and so that re­quires a bit more work.

“We’ve got res­i­den­tial streets, mi­nor col­lec­tors and col­lec­tors. A lot of the streets that we have a real speed­ing prob­lem on are mi­nor col­lec­tors, and so what do we do with those.

“It might re­quire a lit­tle bit more study.”

“I’m re­ally op­ti­mistic about the de­sire to lower speed.”

De­bate on the mo­tion was post­poned from ear­lier this month, and is ex­pected to be dis­cussed ei­ther Mon­day or Tues­day.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who backed Far­rell’s mo­tion, said he thinks there is “broad sup­port” on coun­cil for re­duc­ing the de­fault speed limit on res­i­den­tial streets — but the cur­rent de­bate is whether 30 km/h or 40 km/h makes more sense as a safe speed limit.

“The big ques­tion that’s go­ing to be be­fore coun­cil is whether the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil sup­ports low­er­ing the speed limit, and I think there’s sup­port for that,” Carra said Sun­day. “And the ques­tion will then be, rather than duke it out and not get it right, let’s ask our ex­perts: How do we get this right?”

Carra, Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi and coun­cil­lors Jeff Dav­i­son, Ge­orge Cha­hal, Evan Wool­ley and Ray Jones are listed as spon­sor­ing coun­cil­lors on Far­rell’s no­tice of mo­tion, which calls for a city­wide 30 km/h res­i­den­tial speed limit, and for city staff to re­port back with an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan and af­fected road­ways map by the fourth quar­ter of 2019.

The mo­tion cites World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­search that in­di­cates pedes­tri­ans are 90 per cent likely to sur­vive when struck by ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling at 30 km/h, com­pared with 60 per cent at 40 km/h and 20 per cent at 50 km/h.

Carra hopes to see city staff look at the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­duc­tion to 30 km/ h on un­lined streets through neigh­bour­hoods, and a de­fault speed limit of 40 km/h on lined streets through com­mu­ni­ties, un­less posted higher.

He said he has re­ceived “a lot more sup­port than neg­a­tiv­ity,” from res­i­dents in his ward.

“I think that com­ports with the fact that ev­ery time I talk to any­one

in their neigh­bour­hood, on their doorstep, the as­pi­ra­tion is that cars drive slower,” Carra said.

It hasn’t been the same for Coun. Sean Chu, who said he has re­ceived a lot of calls and emails op­pos­ing lower speed lim­its.

“Over 95 per cent of peo­ple say no, please don’t do it,” Chu said. “And, yes, there’s some peo­ple who say yes, it would be a good idea. A lot of peo­ple ac­tu­ally say they don’t mind 40 km/h.”

Chu, who doesn’t sup­port any re­duc­tion in the de­fault speed lim­its, said driv­ers travel an av­er­age of about 40 km/h on neigh­bour­hood streets any­way.

“This is noth­ing but anti-car ide­ol­ogy,” Chu said. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”

Coun. Ray Jones said he has also heard a lot of op­po­si­tion to the pro­posal from res­i­dents in his ward.

“They just feel that there isn’t en­force­ment on 50, so why would there be en­force­ment on 30,” Jones said. “They don’t feel that it’s a ne­ces­sity. They said it’s just com­mon sense that tells peo­ple they should slow down in res­i­den­tial ar­eas.”

Jones said while he sup­ports the idea of re­duc­ing res­i­den­tial speed lim­its to 40 km/ h, “main­tain­ing 30 on res­i­den­tial roads is go­ing to be a bit tough.”

Far­rell’s mo­tion also calls on the city to add short-term traf­fic­calm­ing mea­sures at high-pri­or­ity lo­ca­tions, medium-term up­dates to street de­sign poli­cies and guide­lines, and long-term con­sis­tent fund­ing for street safety im­prove­ments.

The coun­cil­lor said speed re­duc­tion in neigh­bour­hoods is one of more than 40 rec­om­men­da­tions that came be­fore coun­cil in the Step For­ward pedes­trian strat­egy.

“We’re not naive enough to think that low­er­ing speed is go­ing to ac­com­plish ev­ery­thing that we need to im­prove safety,” Far­rell said. “It’s one tool of many, but it’s prob­a­bly the cheap­est tool, and an im­por­tant one.”

City coun­cil ap­proved the pedes­trian strat­egy, with­out the speed-re­duc­tion mea­sure, in May 2016.


Coun­cil will de­bate whether to lower the speed limit on neigh­bour­hood streets to 30 km/h.


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