Calgary speed limit study rejected but council approves rest of pedestrian strategy

City council adopted a new strategy Tuesday aimed at making Calgary safer and more convenient for pedestrians but rejected a major plank of the proposal — a study of lower speed limits in residential areas.

Interactive graphs below depict stopping distances and chances of pedestrian survival at various speeds

A recent Calgary pilot project found narrower roads can result in motorist speeds that are reduced by 14 km/h on average. Roadway design will be examined under the city's new pedestrian strategy, but reduced speed limits won't, after council rejected that idea Tuesday. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

City council adopted a new strategy Tuesday aimed at making Calgary safer and more convenient for pedestrians but rejected a major plank of the proposal — a study of lower speed limits in residential areas.

The rest of the 50-point strategy, which includes plans to re-examine road designs, look at safer crosswalk options and boost public education efforts, was adopted unanimously.

But, by a 7-6 margin, council voted against having city staff undertake public consultation and prepare a report on even the possibility of reducing residential speed limits.

Coun. Shane Keating described the pedestrian strategy as a "worthy" undertaking but said he still has "reservations" about the prospect of changing speeding limits, given some uncertainties surrounding the issue.

He noted the city is still waiting for a response from the Alberta government with respect to its earlier inquiries about potentially changing the default speed limit of 50 km/h, as well as the possibility of increasing fines as another counter-speeding measure.

Click on this interactive graph to see stopping distances for a car travelling at various speeds:

Coun. Andre Chabot said he'd need clarification on exactly what constitutes a residential street before he'd consider voting for changing residential speed limits.

It remains unclear exactly which roads would be affected by such a change and how, Chabot said, and even if that were sorted out in more detail, he'd still want to put the matter to citizens, directly.

"The preferred method from my perspective would be to go to a plebiscite on this issue and truly engage the public on what their opinions are," he said.

​Coun. Brian Pincott described the pedestrian strategy as a "first step" toward a much more fundamental rethinking of the city's transportation system.

"We still have an environment that's designed for cars," he said. "It's not designed for pedestrians. And when it comes to cars and pedestrians, it ain't a fair fight — pedestrians lose."

Click on the interactive graph to see the probability of outcomes for a pedestrian hit at various speeds:

Pincott said Calgary needs to completely change the way it approaches its roads, sidewalks, pathways, and other transportation routes.

"How do we start designing an environment from Day 1 that is safe for all users, rather than trying to figure out how to make it safer for pedestrians?" he said.

"I look at this as a really fundamental stepping stone toward where we need to get to, if we want to be designing that city for 100 years down the road."

While the idea of lower residential speed limits was rejected for now, Coun. Druh Farrell said the issue is far from settled, in her view, as concerned citizens "won't give up on this one."

"They feel unsafe in their own neighbourhoods. They're afraid to let their kids walk to school," she said.

"They know that speed kills, so they're wanting results."

With files from Scott Dippel


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