Edmonton seeks more public input on neighbourhood speed zones

City councillors are asking for more input from Edmontonians before deciding whether to change speed limits in neighbourhood areas. A survey that found 62 per cent of respondents were in favour of reducing the speed limit on neighbourhood roads from 50 km/h to 40 km/h was the focus of a city report discussed by the urban planning committee on Wednesday.

City councillors delay decision on speed zone change on neighbourhood roads

Advocates for lower speed limits on local neighbourhood streets want the speed limit reduced to at least 40 km/h, with others calling for 30 km/h. (CBC)

City councillors are asking for more input from Edmontonians before deciding whether to change speed limits in neighbourhood areas. 

A survey found 62 per cent of respondents were in favour of reducing the speed limit on neighbourhood roads from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. This survey was the focus of a city report discussed by the urban planning committee on Wednesday.

But councillors agreed more input from is needed from Edmontonians, and asked city staff to return with a report to the committee in January 2018.

"A change like this will require some buy-in from citizens, and I think it's fine for us to take some more time," Coun. Michael Walters said.

City staff will consult with people at festivals over the summer and through schools in the fall, said Gord Cebryk, branch manager of parks and roads services.

These consultations will include explaining the different types of neighbourhood roads — such as collector versus arterial — and what the appropriate speeds might be for those roads, Cebryk said.

Queen Alexandra resident Julie Kuziek, holding her 7-week-old daughter, told the urban planning committee she would prefer 30 km/h speed zones in neighbourhoods. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Queen Alexandra resident Julie Kusiek was one of three people who made a presentation to the committee. 

Kusiek said she would like the city consider an even lower speed zone of 30 km/h for neighbourhoods, particularly where people are encouraged to walk.

"My kids don't magically transport themselves from my door to the school zone. We have to walk across other roads to get there," Kuziek said.

The province still needs to amend the city charter to allow Edmonton to make a blanket change to speed zones in the city, so taking some time for input is a good idea, Coun. Andrew Knack said.

He said the conversation should go deeper and not just focus on whether a person supports one of two options, as the survey format allowed. 

The province still needs to amend the city charter to allow Edmonton to make a blanket change to speed zones in the city, so taking some time for input is a good idea, Coun. Andrew Knack says. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Knack also said there needs to be discussion about speed limits on collector and arterial roads, and suggested they should be increased.

"We want efficient movement of goods and people on our main roads, and if you have proper speeds on those roads, does that discourage people from short-cutting through communities in the first place?" He asked.

When city council is looking to make any kind of city-wide or sweeping decisions, it has to take its direction from citizens, Coun. Bryan Anderson said.

He suggested a plebiscite might be the way to go, but questioned whether a voter turnout of around 30 per cent would be large enough. 

30 [km/h] can be a very awkward speed.- Coun. Bryan Anderson

A change in speed zones also raises questions around enforcement, Anderson said. It could raise photo radar revenue by four to 10 times, he said.

"We might even be able to pay for our LRTs and provide free rides," Anderson joked.

Anderson said he received two photo radar tickets not long after the 30 km/h school zones were implemented in 2014.

He was travelling around 40 km/h in each case, he said.

"I slowed down, but 30 [km/h] can be a very awkward speed."