Calgary councillor aims for 40 km/h speed limit compromise

While some city council members want a new residential speed limit of 30 km/h, Coun. Shane Keating suggests 40 km/h is a good compromise.

Concern that a lower speed limit goes too far drives Keating to suggest alternative

City council is examining a motion that would change the default speed in Calgary's neighbourhoods by 20 km/h. One councillor thinks dropping the default speed by only 10 km/h would be a good compromise. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

If setting a default speed limit of 30 km/h on some residential streets is too low for Calgary drivers, Coun. Shane Keating is suggesting a compromise might be possible.

Seven members of council are backing a motion to change speed limits that will be debated at next week's council meeting.

That's just short of a majority.

The motion calls for the current default speed limit of 50 km/h to be dropped to 30 km/h on certain residential streets.

Keating suggests that 30 km/h might be too low if the goal is to change driver behaviour and improve safety.

So he's suggesting switching to 40 km/h.

The behaviour that he'd like to see would be drivers obeying the speed limit, not driving 10 km/h over it.

"Can you do that all at one crack? I'm not positive and so I would like to be able to say 'let's go to 40,'" said Keating. 

"Let's get the bugs out of the system. Then re-evaluate and see if 30 is the right number."

Better enforcement is another goal

He's also interested in improving enforcement because traffic safety is a top issue with Calgarians.

"Traffic is the No. 1 complaint I believe in every community in the city of Calgary. Not just in my ward," said Keating.

He wants to see the revenues from increased enforcement earmarked for dealing with residential traffic issues.

He suggests 60 per cent of the money be plowed back into paying for more enforcement while 40 per cent of ticket money be used for traffic calming and improving road infrastructure.

Backers of 30 may not see reason to compromise

But even among the council members who have signed on to the motion calling for a 30 km/h limit, 40 km/h isn't enough if the goal is reducing collisions and injuries.

Coun. George Chahal said studies show that if someone is hit by a vehicle driving 30 km/h, their chances of survival are higher than if they're hit by a vehicle travelling at 40 km/h.

Then there's avoiding a confusion factor.

"I think 30 is more in-line with playgrounds and school zones. It's easier to administer than having another tier of speed limits," said Chahal. 

The Calgary Police Service says there were 519 collisions in Calgary in 2017 involving pedestrians. That resulted in two fatalities and 416 injuries.

City council will debate the speed limit motion at its meeting next week.

If the change is approved — or an alternative like 40 km/h — the lower limit is not expected to take effect before the end of 2019.