Edmonton council sends speed limit review back to drawing board

A uniform speed limit for residential roads may not be the right way to go, some councillors say after hours of debate on whether to lower the limit to 40 km/h or 30 km/h from the current 50 km/h.

'This is not where I’d hope we’d be by now,' Coun. Ben Henderson says

City councillors are asking for clearer definitions and new criteria before voting on lowering speed limits across the city. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

A uniform speed limit for residential roads may not be the right way to go, according to some councillors. 

They debated on Tuesday whether to lower the speed limit to 40 km/h or 30 km/h from the current 50 km/h.

A report from administration recommended lowering the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods. Currently, only playground zones have 30 km/h speed limits and there are about 400 of those zones in the city.

Surveys done in 2016 and 2017 show over half of the respondents support lower speed limits.

Coun. Tim Cartmell suggested during Tuesday's meeting that the city reevaluate its approach and gather more concrete information before making a decision. Council agreed.

Cartmell put forward a motion asking the city for clearer definitions of local, collector and arterial roads in different neighbourhoods. 

Coun. Mike Nickel agreed the city has to consider the nature of the roads and not "carpet bomb the city with one-size fits all."

As part of Cartmell's motion, the city will also consult the public some more on the issue, which could take another year before councillors get the information. 

Different road types

Speed limits on arterial roads — typically carrying more traffic — range from 50 km/h to 80 km/h.

The report from administration clarified that residential roads can be collector and local and that "any changes to residential speed limits, then, would impact some collector roads." 
Councillors Tim Cartmell, Ben Henderson and Aaron Paquette discuss speed limits in residential neighbourhoods. (CBC)

"There is distinction," Cartmell said Tuesday of collector roads in mature neighbourhoods, which intersect local ones more often than collector roads in the suburbs. 

"We learned from the gridded street way of designing roadways and improved them in suburbia so we could have less collision, less interaction, less conflict between pedestrians and vehicles."

Council also agreed to ask city staff for data on pedestrian accidents and fatalities, looking back five years before the city established school and playground zones. 

Cartmell said that 90 per cent of the constituents he's heard from said they support playground zones for safety.

'I worry about implementation."- Coun. Michael Walters

"They understand the need and desire for safety," he said. "What they have problems with is how we implemented those zones."

Coun. Michael Walters supported weighing the information and taking more time to consult the public.

He said people in his southwest ward are divided and confused about how a blanket 30 or 40 km/h speed limit would be put in place.

"I worry about implementation," he said. "I've been through implementation that's been on the poor side as it relates to traffic initiatives, whether it be traffic calming or the original painted bike lanes.

"I feel like the trust we owe our citizens in a major change like this is to show them how we're going to roll it out."

Ongoing debate

Coun. Ben Henderson said he's heard "loud and clear" from constituents over several years that they want a lower speed limit. 

"This is not where I'd hope we'd be by now," he said. 

Coun. Scott McKeen said he was a "little baffled" that council was revisiting the speed debate after hearing from constituents in two election campaigns, where "the number one concern was speeding through residential streets."

Council will revisit the speed limit issues and definition of playgrounds at the next council meeting in two weeks.