Two proposals to cut speed limits on Edmonton’s residential streets don’t go far enough to improve road safety, argue residents who poured into council chambers Wednesday.
Draft speed-limit bylaws presented by the city’s traffic safety department could lead to a 40 km/h default speed limit on residential streets across the city’s 400 neighbourhoods, or a reduction to 30 km/h on residential roads in the core of the city with surrounding suburbs remaining unchanged.
But residents urged councillors at the public hearing to consider a city-wide 30 km/h speed limit on roads with homes or a hybrid model by implementing both options, despite caution raised by city staff. Jessica Lamarre, the city’s acting director of traffic safety, previously said this mixed approach could be a consistency concern for drivers, with more frequent speed limit changes.
With the proposed changes presented as one or the other, Coun. Andrew Knack said it’s clear the appetite for a hybrid model exists and needs to be considered by council.
“I don’t actually see a huge concern,” Knack said on moving forward with both speed reduction options. “How we implement that is still important to this conversation of course, but I don’t think that would be a deal-breaker to this, especially when we know there’s a difference in the neighbourhoods in the core zone.”
The proposed core zone, initially brought forward by community members last year, would result in 30 km/h speed limits on residential roads in 34 central neighbourhoods bound by 111 Avenue to the north and 61 Avenue to the south, between 75 Street and 142 Street.
Core zone leader Julie Kusiek argued the narrower streets in central neighbourhoods aren’t built for the current 50 km/h speed limit and a reduction to 30 km/h is an urgent necessity to increase safety and livability. But it’s not just these communities advocating for slower speeds and this lower limit should be considered citywide, Kusiek said.
“I do think we know that 30 km/h is the right speed in front of people’s homes. The question is, how are we going to get there? Do we do it all at once as a citywide approach or do we do it in a phased approach?” she asked.
Kusiek said she’s also supportive of the mixed approach if 40 km/h is deemed suitable outside the core zone and doesn’t agree with the consistency argument as there are already several different speed limits across Edmonton.
“I think the most consistent way to talk about consistency is that people want the cars outside their home, outside their front street, to drive slowly,” she said. “In the core, we’ve heard loud and clear that means 30 km/h. Outside of the core, it’s less clear whether today that means 30 km/h or whether that means 40 km/h.”
After hearing from 26 speakers over a period of four hours, the committee decided to hold off on any recommendation so all councillors can debate the proposals on March 9.
Costs for the hybrid approach are expected to be higher than the separate options, estimated at $2.7 million with the addition of 6,600 speed signs.