Motorists in Edmonton will be required to drive no faster than 40 km/h in residential neighbourhoods and high pedestrian areas after council gave the final green light Wednesday to lower the limit from the current 50 km/h.
Council voted 9-3 to change the speed limit, with Jon Dziadyk, Mike Nickel and Tim Cartmell voting against. Coun. Moe Banga was absent from the meeting.
Council initially approved lowering the limit at a public hearing in March and directed administration to draft the necessary bylaws.
Wednesday's statutory public hearing was a legal requirement before the city could make the change.
Council has heard from dozens of people in past meetings over several years.
Before voting Wednesday, several councillors took turns speaking about the importance of the measure to help improve safety on Edmonton streets.
Mayor Don Iveson said over four terms on council, he's canvassed thousands of people.
"I have heard consistently that people want action on speeding in their neighbourhoods."
Ben Henderson, councillor for Ward 8, which includes parts of Whyte Avenue, also has been supporting the change for years.
"We have been at this for a long time," Henderson said. "It feels like forever to be able to get to this point."
Dziadyk said council should have deferred the decision during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This should not be a priority right now," he argued.
Dziadyk said he believes the city should focus on fixing dangerous roadways.
"Lowering the speed limits gives a false sense of safety to pedestrians, which may lead to less awareness when crossing streets," Dziadyk said in a statement to CBC.
Four people spoke at the public hearing against lowering the limit, including Shaun Cunningham, a local realtor.
Cunningham told council he drives 30,000 to 50,000 kilometres a year for his job.
"It'll affect our productivity substantially," Cunningham said of the lower limit.
Cunningham said that more vehicles are geared with smart technology, and stop when sensing something running out on the road at 50 km/h or lower.
"Vehicle safety and technology is also getting better and advancing," he said. "I feel like reducing the speed limit would be like taking a step back, not taking a step forward."
The 40 km/h will apply to about 400 neighbourhoods.
It will also apply to high pedestrian areas like sections of Whyte Avenue, Jasper Avenue, parts of Chinatown and Saskatchewan Drive from 110th Street to Emily Murphy Park Road.
The city will swap out 1,500 signs at a cost of $1.1 million, funded by the traffic safety automated enforcement reserve.
The change will take effect by next summer.
Coun. Scott McKeen said he's interested in seeing how lower speeds will change culture inside neighbourhoods.
"Our streets are an asset and they're available for other things," McKeen said. "Forty kilometres an hour will help us get toward reclaiming our streets for everyone."
McKeen said he's fed up with the bombardment of complaints every spring when his constituents start calling and emailing about speeders.
"I'm really thrilled we got here," McKeen said.
Coun. Andrew Knack noted the city is working on other traffic calming measures, like enhancing crosswalks and raising driver awareness.
"This is a low cost solution that adds one additional tool to address traffic safety concerns that have been raised year after year throughout the city," Knack said.
Push for 30 km/h
Some still believe the city should go further and lower the limit to 30 km/h.
Stephen Raitz, chair of the group Paths for People, said research shows 30 km/h substantially reduces the severity of collisions.
"We believe the loss of 20 seconds or so on most vehicle trips is a fair trade-off for reducing harm and potentially saving someone's life," Raitz said.