Calgary

30 km/h could be new default speed limit in Calgary

Speed limits could be drastically reduced in Calgary neighbourhoods — along with pedestrian fatalities — if council approves a motion on Sept. 10.

Coun. Druh Farrell wants speed reduced in all city neighbourhoods

The default speed in Calgary's neighbourhoods could be reduced by 20 km/h. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Speed limits could be drastically reduced in Calgary neighbourhoods — along with pedestrian fatalities — if council approves a motion on Sept. 10.

Coun. Druh Farrell wants the default speed limit on neighbourhood streets in the city reduced to 30 kilometres per hour, down from the current 50 km/h.

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"Improving neighbourhood street safety, comfort, and livability are top priorities for communities across Calgary," said the Ward 7 representative in a news release.

"Calgarians want safer streets, and reducing neighbourhood speed limits is an important part of the equation. Considering the $120 million annual societal cost of pedestrian-involved collisions, this is a sensible investment in making walking safer."

Pedestrian survival

Her office cites stats from the World Health Organization that show 90 per cent of pedestrians struck by cars travelling 30 km/h survive.

That number drops to 60 per cent at 40 km/h and below 20 per cent at 50 km/h.

According to Farrell's office, the reduction would prolong the average commute by less than one minute as it would not affect "major collectors, arterials, parkways, industrial, and skeletal roads."

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who is one of the councillors supporting the motion, said the exact nature of the roads affected will have to be determined. 

"We would have to be very clear about that, but I think general unlined streets — streets without lines on them — are your general places where that is going to apply, and then potentially some higher order roads, depending on where they are and what the impacts would be on traffic flows," he said.

'Emerging best practice'

In 2016, when council approved a new pedestrian strategy, it rejected the section that called for a study into reducing residential speed limits. 

But the current motion is supported by five other councillors and the mayor, meaning it is likely to be approved. 

"An international, emerging best practice over the last seven years has been to take the speed limit down on quieter residential streets to 30 km/h," said Carra, who represents Ward 9.

He says the reduction is just the first step in a process that will see streets transformed.

"What we do know is we have to set the speed limit lower and we have to follow that up with a generational project of neighbourhood street redesign so that 30 km/h is the design speed of these roads."

Funding

The motion calls for a plan to be submitted to council no later than the fourth quarter of 2019.

It foresees "short-term, quick build, traffic calming measures at high priority locations, medium-term updates to street design policies and guidelines, and long-term consistent funding for street safety improvements."

Some of that funding could come from redirecting a portion of revenue from fines. 

"Telling administration to do it and to figure out how to do it is Step 1," said Carra. "There's obviously a lot of different ways this can go."

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