Residential Speed Limits

Many of you will have heard about the recent decision on Council that would see reductions in residential speed limits in Edmonton. I’d like to expand a little bit here on what exactly was passed through Council, why I decided to vote the way I did, and what the next steps will look like.

There were two motions passed by Council on May 15; the first asks City Administration to return in early 2020 with a draft bylaw that would reduce city-wide residential speed limits to 40km/hr, while the other would see residential speed limits reduced to 30km/hr within what has been referred to as the YEGCoreZone. I chose to vote in favour of the first proposal on 40km/hr city-wide, while I voted against the YEGCoreZone proposal.

Ultimately both proposals did pass through Council, the former by a 10-3 margin and the latter by a 7-6 margin. Administration will now bring draft bylaws before Council in early 2020 for a final vote, at which time each of these measures will be voted on again with specific language in place.

This map identifies the roads in Ward 5 that would and would not be impacted by the bylaw change (click to enlarge).

This map identifies the roads in Ward 5 that would and would not be impacted by the bylaw change (click to enlarge).

It is vitally important to note that this will strictly impact residential roads, and that the larger roadways that we use to move through the city would not be impacted by this bylaw change. To draw a few examples, well-used arterial roadways in Ward 5 like 178 Street, Callingwood Road and 199 Street will not see any change.

I don’t want it become more difficult to get around Edmonton, and I want to emphasize that this is strictly about improving safety along those first few roads that we all drive to and from our homes. In most cases, the impact on travel time for motorists would be well under a minute.

I voted against the 30 km/hr YEGCoreZone proposal based on concerns about consistency and ease of implementation. I still do have serious questions about implementation that I will be following up on when we next have this item return before Council. I could see myself voting in favour of such a measure in the future if these concerns were to be addressed, but at this time I believe a single city-wide proposal will be the most successful.

Around this time last year, I spoke openly on Council about the fact that I was not in favour of a reduction to 40 km/hr along residential roadways either. Over the course of this debate, however, my mind has been changed for several reasons.

One substantial piece of information that gave me pause is the striking number of pending traffic calming requests in neighbourhoods across the city. During committee discussions on this issue, we came to understand from Administration that over 100 communities in Edmonton are waiting on attention from the City to manage one or more traffic safety issues, and given current resourcing it would take decades for the Office of Traffic Safety to get through this backlog. This is something that needs to be addressed from a resourcing perspective, but given the existing bottleneck it is incumbent upon us to look to other avenues to address traffic safety in the meantime. Reducing residential speed limits is one such avenue.

I also developed a better understanding of where accidents are happening in our city. It is on collector roads like Ormsby Road and 76 Avenue that we are seeing a significant number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions, and most of these collector roads would see a speed limit reduction to 40 km/hr city-wide under the proposed bylaw change.

I’ve heard from a lot of people with concerns about non-compliance, the argument being that the motorists that speed through residential areas will continue to speed no matter the speed limit. Of course, there will need to be an enforcement element built into any change to residential speed limits, and I am looking forward to further discussions to that end when this item returns in early 2020. Beyond that, however, I think it’s important that we recognize how bylaw changes like this are about conditioning behavioural changes. We had similar conversations on Council around the time that we revised smoking bylaws in advance of cannabis legalization. Just because we cannot ticket every person does not mean that a law is useless. Bylaws set a standard for the kind of mindfulness and conduct we expect from residents in our city.

Frankly, I cannot continue to look parents in the eye and tell them there is nothing we can do in the immediate term to keep their families safe. We know that this will make it safer for kids to play in their front yards. It will make it safer for residents to go for walks and bike rides in their communities. The data is clear on this; it is about reducing risk. There are a number of factors that impact collisions in neighbourhoods, and certainly these measures will not prevent all accidents. It will, however, take a big bite out of the risk factors.

I’ll close by saying that I really do appreciate the amount of input we received from the public on this file, whether by email, over the phone or in person at committee meetings. This is a challenging issue that accounts for a whole range of perspectives on how we should move forward as a community. I invite you all to continue to reach out with any questions or comments that you might have.