Fast Speeds, Slow Solutions

Last April, there was a motion put forward to complete further analysis on what speed our roads should be set at. This includes local roads, arterial roads, and collector roads. Nearly a year later, the report is coming back but unfortunately it appears the work that has been requested has not been completed.

 

Previous Council/Committee Action
At the April 24/25, 2018, City Council meeting, the following motion was passed:
That Administration:

  • Develop revised definitions of local, collector, arterial and residential roads, and other road definitions, that consider current and intended volume of traffic, roadway geometry, and surrounding land uses.
  • Develop a set of universal maximum speed limits based on these revised
    Definitions.
  • Develop criteria regarding speed reduction zones, including but not limited to playground zones, that reduces the site specific speed limit to accommodate unique circumstances.
  • Wherever possible, use existing provincial legislation and guidelines to
    complete the work in parts A to C above.
  • Engage with residents and communities to develop an understanding and
    gather feedback for vision zero, current traffic safety concerns, the new
    definitions and potential pros and cons to residents on possible speed limit
    Changes.
  • Develop a mechanism whereby residents can request a review of a particular
    road to establish a revised speed limit.
  • Prepare draft amendments to the Speed Limits Bylaw and a proposed implementation plan in consideration of the work above.

 

Given that almost a year has gone by, I would have liked to see a proposed solution to make speed zones consistent throughout Edmonton. Instead, we are being asked to wait even longer to take action.

 

The ideal solution would be to ensure that every community is designed to encourage safe driving (ex: curb extensions, raised crosswalks, etc.) but this will take a lot of time as we wait for each community to go through Neighbourhood Renewal. I’ll touch on this later in the post.

 

Because of the information above and with what is available in the reports, I think we only have two options. First, we can build infrastructure by adding raised crosswalks, speed bumps, etc. to the over 100 communities that are waiting for traffic safety improvements – or we can lower speed limits on the local roads in front of our homes and make them consistent. In our fiscal reality, we do not have the necessary capital to make these safety upgrades in the short term. As a result, I firmly believe that we need to lower speed limits.

 

 

While I have several concerns about the reports provided to City Council on traffic safety, I do want to take a moment and recognize the great work that has occurred to date as part of Vision Zero. We have seen a measurable improvement in safety with fewer serious accidents and fatalities since adopting Vision Zero in 2015.

 

One of my concerns in the reports is the lack of progress on addressing local traffic safety concerns through the Community Traffic Management Program. This program helps to reduce vehicle volumes and speeds within Edmonton’s neighbourhoods and contributes to the City’s Vision Zero Strategy by enhancing neighbourhood traffic safety for all road users, particularly people who walk and bike. It does this by evaluating these neighbourhoods based on criteria such as traffic volume, average speed, collision history, land use and neighbourhood demographics. Currently, there are over 100 neighbourhoods that are under consideration for the Community Traffic Management Program.

 

By aligning with the Neighbourhood Renewal Program, Community Traffic Management will apply traffic safety upgrades to 35 neighbourhoods over the next 10-year cycle, with 16 of these projects already underway. Administration is also developing options for 20 neighbourhoods near  LRT development. Although I am hoping it was simply an oversight, a community like Parkview has been left off the list of priorities, even though their Traffic Safety Subcommittee spent a few years engaging with the City and developed a lengthy discussion paper on their need for more traffic safety measures.

 

Another concern I have is that with the current resources set aside for traffic safety, we will not be able to address all areas identified in the charts below. If we want to fully fund all of those initiatives which are having a measurable impact in safety,  Council would either need to raise taxes to fill the gaps, which I am not in favour of, or we need to find lower cost solutions – such as lowering speed limits on the local roads in front of our homes.

 

 

 

My primary goal when discussing speed limits is always safety and consistency. Many residents find certain speed limits or playground zone designations confusing or arbitrary. An example of this was the playground zone beside Westlawn School on 95th Avenue between 165th and 167th Street, which as you may have seen has now been removed. This was an example of an area that looks and feels like an arterial road, but was not designated as an arterial road. As such, it had a different speed limit than other roads that have similar uses. I would like to see the City of Edmonton consider making most arterial roads uniform at 60 km/hr, which is the speed that many of the arterial roads were designed for and for our local roads to have a consistent slower speed instead. By having more consistency, the goal is that it will help drivers understand the zone they are in and respect that speed limit. To achieve this, I am supportive of:

 

30 km/hr on all local roads in our communities.

  • Local roads are easily defined as the streets in front of our homes within our communities.

 

40 km/hr speed limits on all local collector roads.

  • Collector roads are not currently split between major and minor but I think we should create those definitions. In my mind a major collector road would be something like 95th Avenue west of 156th Street. A minor collector road would be 95th Avenue between 142nd and 149th Street (within Crestwood) and 182nd Street within Aldergrove, Belmead, and La Perle (approximately 81st Avenue to 98th Avenue).

 

60 km/hr speed limit on all arterial roads and major collector roads.

  • Arterial roads are the main roads we use to get to and from our major destinations. For those of us in the west end, that would include streets like 142nd/149th/156th/170th/178th and avenues like 87th/100th/Stony Plain Road/107th/111th/118th.

 

If you read through my platform during the last campaign you would have seen that I campaigned on the idea of slower speeds specifically on the local roads within our communities. This idea was based on the discussion almost 10 years ago from the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues as they wanted to see a city-wide reduction in speed on local roads. Why am I suggesting 30 km/hr speed limit? The City of Edmonton has excellent research for why 30 km/hr makes a difference in road safety. Beyond that research, slower speeds on our local roads have regularly been requested by residents across the city. Every time the city has completed surveys on this topic, a majority of Edmontonians have said they are in favour of slower speeds on the local roads. The primary debate has been what is the right slower speed on our local roads – typically the feedback is either 40 km/hr or 30 km/hr.

 

I find it incredibly challenging to drive 50 km/h within a community because there are often cars parked on both sides of a narrow street. I also think about when I was growing up in Spruce Grove, the primary purpose for my local road was to play street hockey. The secondary purpose was for people to get to their garage in their car. No one drove fast because they were only a few seconds away from their homes and they knew that kids were out and about and wanted to be able to quickly respond. The front streets were often a gathering point for communities and when people don’t feel comfortable being out on their front lawn, it makes it provides fewer opportunities for neighbours to connect with one another.

 

 

It is possible for communities to have 30 km/h speed zones immediately. Currently, the neighbourhood of Strathcona is being designed for 30 km/h speed limits and 60 km/h arterial roads. Why are we designing one community for this and not every community in the city? Having consistent traffic safety rules serves those who travel throughout the city.

 

 

With regards to our arterial roads there are a few reasons for suggesting a standard 60 km/hr speed. About two years ago, there was a Committee meeting where we received a response to a question about engineered speeds on our arterial roads. In that meeting, we were told that most of our arterial roads were designed to support a 60 km/hr speed. For any number of reasons, our arterial roads have either a 50 km/hr and 60 km/hr limit. I think that inconsistency can be frustrating. Anyone who has driven along 142nd Street knows that most of that road is 60 km/hr except for the 7 block stretch between Stony Plain Road and 107th Avenue. If we have designed the arterial roads for 60 km/hr, they should be set at that limit and then enforced so that people don’t go over the speed limit.

 

My hope is that a standardized approach would make driving on our roads much simpler. We wouldn’t have certain times of the day where the speed limits are different, it would likely reduce overall travel time because the majority of our commute is on our arterial roads which would now all be 60 km/hr, and it would make the streets in front of our homes safer for everyone. Also, this would also help with decreasing the amount of signage on our streets. If we have consistent speeds on each type of roads, we wouldn’t require as much signage which I have heard can be a concern.

 

I’ve been hearing about traffic safety concerns in communities since I first got involved with the Meadowlark Community League over a decade ago. Our response to these concerns has not been adequately addressed. The City can help positively influence traffic safety by simply lowering the speed limits. This will not solve every problem but it’s an immediate solution that can help while we work to redesign neighbourhood streets as part of the Neighbourhood Renewal Program.

 

 

Making speed zones across Edmonton consistent will help improve traffic safety, decrease speeding, keep traffic flowing on our arterial roads, and help with the City’s Vision Zero mission. While this is a topic I campaigned on, I’d like to get your additional feedback. What are some of the ways that you would like to see traffic safety concerns address? Please share your feedback in the comments and stay tuned to my blog at www.andrewknack.com for more information on speed zones and traffic safety.

 

#yegcc #yegtransit

 

1 Comment

  1. Rhonda Peppel on March 23, 2019 at 7:50 am

    I like the idea of 40 km in neighborhoods.

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