Edmonton city council to hear from public on plan to reduce speed limits

·3 min read

Edmonton city council will hold a public hearing this week to get Edmontonians' feedback about a proposed change to lower speed limits.

After two years of debate, council voted earlier this year to reduce the default residential speed limit in Edmonton from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. Speed limits on pedestrian-friendly roads like Whyte Avenue, Jasper Avenue and Saskatchewan Drive will also drop to 40 km/h.

On Thursday, council will hear from members of the public about the proposed reduction.

Coun. Andrew Knack, who was interviewed on CBC's Edmonton AM on Monday, said he's been following this issue since it was first raised more than a decade ago and supports the change.

When council discussed speed limits earlier this year, Knack supported an even greater reduction to 30 km/h in the city's core.

Improving traffic safety in residential areas is a long-standing issue, Knack said.

"These communities have been waiting for years and years for some type of response to what are legitimate concerns," he said. "And so I think this is one simple way we can start to take action."

Coun. Jon Dziadyk opposed the new limits, saying council should've waited until the COVID-19 pandemic was over before tackling the issue.

"I don't think it's a priority right now," Dziadyk said Monday on CBC's Edmonton AM.

"I think that we can address traffic safety more acutely by looking at dangerous roadway sections and lowering speed limits on a case-by-case basis versus a blanket approach."

More signs will be needed on roads with new speed limits to help drivers adjust to the change, Dziadyk said.

He worries drivers will be confused by Edmonton's default speed limit differing from the rest of the province.

Lower speed limits could also create a false sense of safety for pedestrians as drivers may take longer to adjust to the new rules, he said.

"A lot of our roadways are designed for speeds of 50 or 60 kilometres with clear sight lines and other engineering mechanisms in place for cars to safely operate," Dziadyk said.

"When you start bringing that down without a real strong rationale why, pedestrians might see a 40- or a 30-km/h zone, but cars will still be operating to the design of the roadway and we could create a really bad situation unintentionally."

Knack agreed tackling traffic safety at the road design level would be ideal and is something the city is doing as it rebuilds communities in the decades to come.

But a long-term approach doesn't help communities quickly enough, he argued.

"The question is: Are we willing to wait another 20 or 30 years to finish all of that work to help address what are very real issues within communities now, or do we start taking action on that for what is a relatively low cost?" Knack said.

City administration said it expects the speed limit reduction to be implemented by summer 2021 and that the effective date of the reduction will be advertised to the public at least 10 days in advance.