Calgary to lower residential speed limit to 40 km/h, council rejects putting question to plebiscite

CALGARY — Calgary city council voted 10-4 in favour of lowering the speed limit on most residential streets to 40 km/h, with the change planned to take place by May 31 of this year. 

Couns. Jeromy Farkas, Sean Chu, Joe Magliocca and Peter Demong voted against the idea, which has been studied and debated for decades in Calgary. 

“This will save money, this will save lives,” said Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell.

“We have a responsibility to make our city safer.”

According to a city report, about 9,100 collisions happen on residential streets every year with around 500 resulting in serious injury or death. Lowering speed limit will reduce the number of crashes by up to 450 per year, the report says. 

The change is expected to cost about $2.3 million dollars and will save $8.1 million in annual societal costs including loss of work, property damage and emergency response.

“Lowering the speed limit is a very simple safety issue,” said Calgary physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj.

“We will see fewer people injured, fewer shattered bones, shattered organs, fewer concussions, fewer shattered lives, really,” he said.

City administration recommended against bringing the speed limit question to a plebiscite. Council voted against making it a question in October’s municipal election. 

The speed limit changes will apply to most residential streets, which are narrower and typically have cars parked on either side.

Larger collector roads, boulevards, major roadways and highways will not see a speed limit change.

In a question-and-answer video posted to his Facebook page last week, Farkas instead pushed for a plebiscite on the matter and suggested lowering speed limits isn’t the answer.

“It’s one of the reasons I was not in support of the blanket approach to basically make the entire city a playground zone,” he said.

The mayor rejected that notion. 

“Playground zones, last I checked, are 30 km/h and we’re looking at 40km/h and we’re only looking at side streets, cul-de-sacs, not the entire city,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

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