Edmonton council votes to lower residential speed limit to 40 km/h

Motorists will be required to slow down to 40 km/h on all residential streets after city council voted on the drawn-out issue during a meeting Wednesday. 

Council votes on contentious speed zone after two years of debate

Council votes 8-5 to lower limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h for residential roads and for some main streets like Jasper Avenue. (CBC)

Motorists will be required to slow down to 40 km/h on all residential streets after city council voted on the drawn-out issue during a meeting Wednesday. 

Council also agreed to lower the limit to 40 km/h on main streets such as Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue.

The new speed is expected to be in place by mid-2021, after the necessary bylaw changes have been made.

Residential roads are currently 50 km/h by default, except in designated playground zones, which are 30 km/h. 

Councillors voted 8-5 in favour of the 40 km/h limit in both core and suburban neighbourhoods.

In a motion Wednesday morning, Coun. Andrew Knack also asked council to vote on reducing the limit on main streets and high pedestrian areas, like Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue.

That was also supported by an 8-5 vote.

Knack had pushed for 30 km/h in the core.

"At this point, there's really no denying the fact that a 30 km/h speed limit is the right speed in terms of reducing injuries and death," he said before the vote. "This speed has the greatest overall benefit for safety." 

Coun. Sarah Hamilton proposed a blanket 40 km/h in all residential areas, noting that council has been debating options for several years. 

"How long have we been talking about this?" she asked during the meeting. 

Interim city manager Adam Laughlin noted that city administration supports reducing the 50 km/h limit in residential areas, but not going as far as 30 km/h.

"Our recommendation, despite what's on the motion, is 40 km/h across the city," Laughlin told council. "I think what we'd really appreciate is a decision so that we can forward." 

Knack said the first suggestion to lower the 50 km/h limit was made about a decade ago. 

30 versus 40 versus 50

The issue has been divisive for at least two years among council and the public. 

Several councillors argued that reducing the limit won't solve the safety issues.  

Coun. Tony Caterina questioned whether the city was enforcing crosswalk bylaws for pedestrians, arguing that many cross when they don't have the clear walking sign.

Pitting drivers against pedestrians was only making things worse, argued Coun. Aaron Paquette, who supported the 30 km/h limit.

"That's got to go," Paquette said during the meeting. "There are pedestrians who drive, there are car drivers who walk — these are not entities, these are people, these are our family, they're our friends."

Coun. Jon Dziadyk said most of the constituents he's heard from are opposed to the lower limit.

"All users of the roadway need to understand the risks involved," Dziadyk said. "I think that we should be enforcing existing laws more than we are." 

And in Ward 8, which includes Old Strathcona and several mature neighbourhoods, Coun. Ben Henderson made a bid for the 30 km/h limit in the core neighbourhoods with narrow streets and parking on both sides.  

"I don't think 40 K is safe," Henderson said. 

Henderson noted that many of the grid streets were designed at the beginning of the last century when there were very few vehicles. 

"Yet we have expected them to keep up with a different style of vehicle, a significant increase in traffic and that they are at the same standard."

Police perspective

Although council had the last say, they did consider the Edmonton police standpoint, which supports a consistent 40 km/h speed limit. 

Acting Insp. Geoff Mittelsteadt told council enforcing limits that fluctuate frequently is a challenge with their current resources. 

"The enforcement side can get very confusing for motorists," Mittelsteadt said. 

Mittelsteadt noted that signs must clearly reflect a change in speed limit, otherwise motorists have grounds to challenge a ticket in court. 

Complaints would increase if the limit is lowered to 30, he added. 



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