The Manitoba government has given the green light to municipalities to reduce speed limits around school zones, but in Winnipeg, speeds won't be reduced on major roads.

Each municipality has the power to decide how low to set speeds around schools and on which streets.

Luis Escobar,  manager of traffic for the city of Winnipeg, said the city has no plans to reduce the speed on regional streets, or major roadways. Escobar said the city will now implement a bylaw to change the speed limits in school zones. Signs will go up shortly after.

"We see that a lot of the issues, interactions between the motorists and children occurs on residential streets.  That's why we really want to focus on where the actual problem exists," Escobar said.

The province proclaimed the school zone legislation on Monday, meaning speed limits on residential streets can be reduced to 30 km/h.

"All families want their children to be safe while crossing streets as they travel to and from school," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said.

"The new regulations will permit local governments to establish lower speeds in school zones to ensure greater safety for children in their communities."

Local governments, such as municipalities, local government districts, First Nations and community councils, now have the ability to:

  • Set maximum speeds as low as 30 km/h in school zones where the regularly posted speed is less than 80 km/h.
  • Set maximum speeds as low as 50 km/h in school zones where the regularly posted speed is 80 km/h or above.
  • Designate specific dates and hours when reduced speed limits are in effect or set the limits to be in effect at all times.

Reduced-speed school zones are limited to streets and highways that are close to the school property. The designated zone must be within 150 metres of the boundary of that property, according to the province.

Any local government that wishes to reduce the speed limit in its school zones must pass a bylaw lists all schools that will have reduced-speed zones; indicates what roads and what portions will have the reduced speed; describes the reduced maximum speed and hours the speed limit is in effect.

"These guidelines will allow local governments to determine the best course of action for their community," Ashton said.  "[But] no matter what the speed limit is, children are vulnerable on the road. Drivers have to take responsibility and slow down."

Dale Burgos, a spokesman for the Winnipeg School Division, welcomes the changes but is disappointed some speeds can only be dropped as low as 50 km/h. He would like to see them uniformly be 30 km/h, as they are in other provinces.

In B.C, it doesn't matter if a school is located on a cul de sac or a major highway, the speed is reduced to 30 km/h, he noted.

"A school zone is a school zone is a school zone. I've been to these major cities across Canada and in the United States [where lower school zone limits exist] and it's a way of life for these people," he said.

Manitoba's Minister of Justice, Andrew Swan, said municipalities will have to decide for themselves where they will reduce speed limits and by how much.

Swan said municipalities will have a better understanding of what speed limits will work best for them.

“Lowering the speed limit to 30 km in one place may make sense. The City of Winnipeg may decide it doesn’t make sense in another part of the city because of traffic flow,” he explained.

Parents concerned city won’t choose to lower limits

Winnipeg parent Vycki Atallah said the news is encouraging but still worries about schools on busy roads.

“Obviously as parents we’re concerned that people zip by with no regard for the fact that there’s a school zone on a major road, so I would hope that people would be conscientious and actually go the speed limit,” she said.

Winnipeg grandparent Margaret Christiansen said just changing the limits might not be enough. She wants to see them changed consistently across all the schools in the city.

She takes her four-year-old grandson to Montrose School on Grant Avenue regularly.

Christiansen said she’d like to see the speed limit lowered to 30 km/h on the busy street, and she thinks every school division in the city should have the limit in place to eliminate confusion.

Robert Stefaniuk, principal of Montrose School, agrees.

“It needs to be consistent. We can’t have motorists guessing time of day, whether it’s 30 on this or 60 on that street. I think it just needs to be consistent,” said Stefaniuk.

He said he’s not convinced the legislation will be enough to make schools safer, unless the city steps up and makes changes across the board.

Regina and Calgary have made speed limits consistent in school zones across the city, eliminating confusing for drivers.