Calgary city council has opted to reduce speed limits in residential neighbourhoods by 10 km/h instead of putting the question on the ballot in the municipal election in October.
On Monday, councillors voted 10-4 in favour of reducing the current default speed limit of 50 km/h to 40 km/h in an effort to reduce collisions with severe outcomes like injury and death on residential streets.
The change is set to take effect on May 31.
“If you don’t see a sign on a road, that means the speed limit is 40 [km/h],” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “This will not impact your larger streets — your 52nd streets or your Blackfoot trails or your Crowchild — those will remain the way they are now.”
The City of Calgary has posted a map of the streets that will be impacted by the change on its website.
Meanwhile, the city will begin posting a speed limit of 50 km/h on collector roads throughout Calgary neighbourhoods. Collector roads are described by the city as roads that connect smaller residential streets to arterial roads and often have a yellow line divider or a bus route.
According to city administration, the move will cost $2.3 million.
However, the city anticipates the change will result in $8.1 million savings in societal costs — a cumulative price tag for crashes including property damage or lost salaries for those who miss work due to an injury sustained in a crash.
“Injuries and deaths on our city streets are expensive, and it’s also incredibly damaging to people’s well-being,” Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said. “Everyone makes mistakes, but the price for a mistake shouldn’t be injury and death.”
City data suggests that an average of 9,100 crashes happen in Calgary neighbourhoods every year with an average of 550 resulting in injury or death. City administration told council on Monday that reducing the speed limit would result in a rollback of between 90 and 450 residential collisions annually with a reduction of between six and 29 deaths every year.
City council opted not to send the speed limit issue to a plebiscite during the upcoming municipal election. Only councillors Jeromy Farkas, Joe Magliocca, Sean Chu and Peter Demong wanted to send it to a plebiscite.
However, city administration recommended against a plebiscite, citing several risks including confusion, polarization and technical complexities with the issue.
“It’s going to be a change that impacts every single Calgarian. It doesn’t come for free; it’s millions of dollars that, frankly, we don’t have right now,” Farkas told Global News following council’s vote.
“While I’m opposed to the change, I really would’ve been much more comfortable for Calgarians to have their voice heard directly through a referendum.”
Several city councillors raised concerns about misinformation circulating around the speed limit debate.
“We’re not turning the city into a playground. Let’s get that fact out there,” Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said.
Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland, who originally supported a plebiscite, said he was forced to change his mind due to concerns over misinformation with the speed limit issue.
“We receive many reports, a lot of data on this and countless hours of feedback on this subject,” Sutherland told council. “If we’re not able to make a decision on this either way, then I’m sorry, you’re not doing your job as a councillor.”
Calgary now joins Edmonton, Airdrie and Banff as the only municipalities in Alberta to lower residential speed limits to 40 km/h.
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