New playground speed zones could be coming to Edmonton

The City of Edmonton is moving ahead with a plan to implement a 30 km/h speed limit around all playgrounds in the city, as well as some sports fields and park areas.

'If it's a life, can you put a cost to it?' asks city councillor

Edmonton city council will vote on a plan in September to expand 30 km/h speed limit zones to include playgrounds and recreational park lands. (CBC)

The City of Edmonton is moving ahead with a plan that could see a 30 km/h speed limit around all playgrounds in the city, as well as some sports fields and parkland areas.

Councillors backed an "aggressive" roll out of the new speed zones at the community and public services committee meeting on Thursday.

"I think this is the right step forward," said Coun. Bev Esslinger. "If it's a life, can you put a cost to it?"

The committee passed a motion that directs staff to come up with a definition for a playground and determine the hours the speed zone should be in effect.

A report is expected to come back to the committee in September, and would still need to be approved by council.
New 30 km/h playground speed zones could be in place by the end of the year, Gord Cebryk, branch manager of parks and roads services, said on Thursday. (CBC)

Once that happens, it clears the way for staff to aggressively move forward, said Gord Cebryk, branch manager of parks and roads services.

"Once we've got the definition of playgrounds and what areas are covered, then we would have all of those zones signed," said Cebryk. "So, by the end of the year, drivers would see playground zones in effect."

Green spaces could be included

Provincial government guidelines define playgrounds as recreational facilities primarily used by children. City staff said the definition includes outdoor playgrounds with play equipment, sports fields, ball diamonds and even swimming pools.

Coun. Ben Henderson said city officials should find a way for communities to be able to suggest areas for playground-zone designation.

"For a community to be able to say, 'This area is acting like a playground, we'd like it to play by those rules in terms of the speed reduction and signage,' " said Henderson.

City officials have yet to decide if the 30 km/h zones would apply to multi-lane arterial roads, said Cebryk.

There may be other ways to mitigate the dangers to children playing in those areas, such as putting up fencing, he said.

'I'm unimpressed'

So far, community reaction to the speed-reduction plan has been mixed.

"I think that's a really great idea," said Casandra Zettl, a mother of three who was playing with her children at an Edmonton playground Thursday.  

"I think honestly it would be a great safety feature for kids around playgrounds. Kids don't always look to see if there's a car coming unfortunately, and in playground zones there are a lot of kids and sometimes it's hard to keep track of them." 

Edmonton resident Stan Beranek disagreed with the plan and said he's already having a difficult enough time navigating the city's streets because of the new bike lanes.

"I'm unimpressed. Traffic is bad enough around here without slowing it down to half speed," Beranek, 71, said. "Park my car and walk, that seems like it'd be just as quick."

City staff will look at best practices in other cities such as Calgary and St. Albert, and make recommendations on how the playground zones could work in co-ordination with existing school zones, said Cebryk.

The issue will come back to the committee on Sept. 7, with city council expected to vote on it Sept. 12.

With files from Scott Stevenson