50, 40 or 30? Calgary city hall set to decide on residential speed limits

CALGARY — After a lengthy debate, the future of the city’s residential speed limits could be decided this week.

On Wednesday, Calgary city council committee will discuss lowering limits from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.

The rule would apply mainly for neighbourhood roads that are without a middle line.

The city’s transportation and transit committee is set to receive a report on the matter, which focuses on safety and the reduction of collisions in residential areas. It recommends the limit be dropped to 40 km/h unless otherwise marked. Eventually, some councillors say they’d like to see speeds go down to 30 km/h, with future streets all designed with a lowered limit in mind.

Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra said dropping the limits would only be a minor inconvenience to motorists.

“I’m on team 30,” Carra told CTV News. “You have to strike a balance between people getting around the city and feeling safe in their own neighborhood, and we know we haven’t struck that balance right.”

Carra believes people drive as fast as the road allows — and that the transition would be harder on some of the older neighborhood roads that are wider than in new communities.

Druh Farrell, councillor for Ward 7, agrees. That’s why she says the older roads should be grandfathered in; changed to include more traffic calming measures when it’s eventually time for regular maintenance.

Both councillors believe lowering the limits would yield immediate results.

“Over 9,000 collisions happen on Calgary’s neighbourhood streets every year, resulting in 550 serious injuries or deaths and hundreds of millions in societal costs,” Farrell said. “Reducing speeds will reduce the number of collisions, save society money, and, critically, save lives.”

City numbers show of the almost 37,000 vehicle collisions that happen annually in Calgary, roughly a quarter happen within communities.

“If you had a factory that had the kind of accident record that cities just accept as a matter of fact with regards to our transportation system, you would be out of business,” Carra said. “So it needs to be changed.”

But not every councillor is on board.

Some have been outspoken about 30 km/h being too drastic a change — even if it were brought in slowly.

“30 just slows down the traffic too much, in my view,” Ward 12 councillor Shane Keating said. “The responsible driver is already doing 40.”

Other councillors don’t want any change.

Sean Chu sent a tweet Sunday, reading, “50 to 30km/h is a 40% decrease, which means a min 40% increase in (commuting) time. Would you like to spend +40% more time on the roads? And 40% more emissions increase too! To the Green & anti-car advocates, you can’t ‘suck & blow at the same time.’ “

If a bylaw is passed through city hall, councillors say you could expect to see more 40 km/h limits by the spring of 2021.

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