Calgary will lower speed limits on residential side streets from 50 to 40 km/h

City council voted 10-4 to lower the speed limit to 40 km/h on Calgary residential streets, which will go into effect May 31.

Council voted 10-4 on the change, which will take effect May 31 

Council voted 10-4 to drop the speed limit on residential roads, but collector streets and those used for bus routes will remain at 50 km/h. (CBC)

Calgary will lower the speed limit on residential roads from 50 to 40 km/h.

Council voted 10-4 Monday in favour of the change, which is intended to reduce the severity and number of collisions on neighbourhood side streets. The change will take effect on May 31. 

"We have the opportunity here to reduce cost to society, we have the opportunity here to save injury, and we have the opportunity here to save lives," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said shortly before the vote. 

Collector streets — typically those with a yellow line down the centre or a bus route — will continue to have a posted limit of 50 km/h.

The city will install 50 km/h signs on those collector streets as well as signage about the default speed limit on all roads entering Calgary, at an estimated cost of $2.3 million.

The city said about 9,100 collisions happen each year on residential streets, and 500 of those result in severe injury or death. A lowered speed limit is expected to reduce collisions by 90 to 450 each year, the city said, and deaths by six to 29 each year.

Other cities such as Edmonton, Toronto and Hamilton have also lowered speed limits in residential areas.

The city estimated the change will save at least $8.1 million annual in societal costs from the costs associated with fatalities to property damage. That number doesn't include immeasurable benefits like the reduced stress that accompanies reduced noise levels, or increased feelings of comfort for pedestrians and children playing outside, the city said. 

Coun. Druh Farrell said the money and lives saved made the decision an easy one. 

"I want to challenge the members of council that keep raising cost as why not to do it — we've heard time and again that this will save money and it will save lives," she said.

City officials had recommended against putting the speed issue to a plebiscite, saying it would come with numerous risks and that it would be challenging to come up with a clear yes or no question for voters.

Despite that recommendation, Coun. Peter Demong brought forward an amendment calling for the issue to go to the voters, which was defeated 10-4. 

The city's website has a map showing where the lower speed limits will apply in each ward.