Residential safety speed limits debate goes to City Council in March

A City Council committee decided to move a debate on lowering residential speed limits in Edmonton to a full meeting of City Council on March 9, noting the need for a bigger discussion with all elected representatives.

The decision was made after approximately four hours of presentations and questions and answers, featuring citizens, elected councillors and representatives of City Administration at City Hall in Edmonton.

What is being debated, what isn’t

In front of councillors are two recommendations from City Administration.

The first would lower speed limits on residential roads across the city to 40 km/h from the current 50 km/h.

The second recommendation would be to drop the speed limit to 30 km/h on residential roads in the Core Zone, an area of neighbourhoods in central Edmonton.

Core Zone Map: Reducing speed limits, increasing safety and livability in Edmonton

Neither recommendation would change current speed limits on the majority of arterial roads in Edmonton, or main thoroughfares like Whitemud Drive, Yellowhead Trail, Anthony Henday or Wayne Gretzky Drive.

Administration also presented a speed limit reduction option of 40 km/h for Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue, as part of the motion to review the speeds on Main Streets downtown and other high pedestrian areas.

Two options for lower speeds

“We completely appreciate that if you make a bold move and apply any of the options in front of you today, there will be concerns from existing drivers about how their day-to-day experiences may change,” said Gord Cebyrk, Deputy City Manager of City Operations.

Administration produced 10 reports, linked by the theme that lowering speed limits in residential areas, high pedestrian areas and Main Streets can make those streets calmer, quieter and safer for people walking, biking, driving and enjoying their neighbourhoods.

To help Edmontonians imagine what a change to residential speed limits could mean to their travel time, the City partnered with TELUS Insights to review vehicle travel speeds in neighborhoods and to develop the unique Estimated Time of Arrival Tool.

“Based on the Estimated Arrival Tool, we are seeing that there would be very little disruption to daily commutes,” said Jessica Lamarre, Acting Director of Traffic Safety. “Most routes have about two minutes added. And what’s that? To me, that’s the time it takes to brush your teeth.”

Try it out!
Estimate Time of Arrival Tool Map Image
Engaged citizens

The debate at City Hall attracted widespread news media attention and the in-person attention of 24 people who spoke to councillors on the topic.

The majority of people who spoke did so in favour of speed limit reductions, including representatives of The University of Alberta School of Public Health, various community leagues, Paths for People and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL).

Steve Finkelman and Jane Cardillo attended the meeting and spoke in support of lowering residential speed limits city-wide. The couple lost their son six years ago. A vehicle struck David Finkelman in a marked crosswalk as the driver turned left onto Whyte Avenue from 101 Street.

“If slower speeds did not save our son, they will save someone else,” said Finkelman. “And don’t be fooled by those who tell you that one life spared is not enough reason to slow hundreds of thousands of motorists and add a minute or two to their commute. It is if it’s someone you love.”

Another perspective was forwarded by Curtis Treen, who said that a decision on speed limits affects “everyone’s backyard,” and that City Council needs a wider cross-section of opinion.

“This one is not a casino being built,” said Treen. “It’s about changing speed limits. I don’t think you’ve got the right amount of comments and feedback.”

Administration has completed a review of integrated public engagement activities and results undertaken that captured citizen input into traffic safety initiatives and provided insights into community priorities for renewal projects. Improving safety, mobility and accessibility are recurring themes that have emerged from these various forms of public engagement.

The University of Alberta School of Public Health representatives said reduced speed limits would make residential streets more approachable for people who want to cycle and walk. More people feeling comfortable using active transportation means positive health benefits for both society and for individuals.

The EFCL conducted a survey of their community league members on residential speeds and received 1,500 responses. The results indicated the majority of residents supported lower speed limits city-wide.

Edmonton City Council Chambers
Residential speed limits discussed, Feb. 26, 2020

The City of Edmonton has adopted a long-term goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries, also known as Vision Zero.

What’s next?

Plan to attend or watch the livestream of this important safety issue when it returns to City Council on March 9.

Learn more about speed limit reductions at edmonton.ca/safespeeds, including various forms of public engagement that have occurred and frequently asked questions. Follow and join the conversation on Twitter at @VisionZeroYEG.