Pedestrian Strategy – A Step Forward For Safer Streets

On Tuesday, May 3 Council passed the Pedestrian Strategy.  This plan outlines some actions that The City can take to make walking a preferable and safer transportation modality for Calgarians.

Some of the actions include:

  • Building more Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs)
  • Building missing links in the sidewalk network
  • Building midblock crossings in high use areas
  • Building new high-value pedestrian under/over passes and bridges

You can read the full Pedestrian Strategy HERE

Ped StratPedestrian infrastructure are important investments that could dramatically reduce the number of serious collisions between pedestrians and motorists.  Accidents are going to happen, but with the proper infrastructure in place we can certainly work towards safer streets.

There is one specific element of the Pedestrian Strategy that has garnered a lot of attention.  That action was reducing the speed limit in residential areas from 50km/h to 40km/h.  Through Council deliberations last month in committee we decided to remove that action from the Pedestrian Strategy.  At Council on May 3 there was a motion to consider taking forward public consultation on a speed limit reduction.  This motion ultimately failed 7-6.

I voted against doing further public consultation, and there are a couple of key reasons why:

  • Enforcement:

    Without an increased enforcement presence, a reduction in the speed limits will have little actual benefit. The Calgary Police Service (CPS) has been working on a residential traffic enforcement strategy and will be reporting back to Council later this year.  I am not prepared to explore a reduction to 40km/h until we find ways to appropriately enforce the speed limits we currently have in place.

  • City Charter discussions:

    The City and The Government of Alberta are currently going through discussions about City Charters.  City Charters are an opportunity for the provincial government to delegate greater powers to municipal governments.  Currently the province decides what the unposted speed limit is (it is currently 50km/h across the province).  Through the City Charter process, municipalities may be given the authority to decide their own unposted speed limits.  If Calgary were to consider moving our residential speed limits from 50km/h to 40km/h we would have to re-sign a massive number of signs throughout the city.  This would come at a large cost to taxpayers.  Before we spend money on signage, I want to get a clearer picture of what powers Calgary may have under the City Charter.

  • Provincial Direction:

    The Government of Alberta may make a decision on unposted speed limits independent of City Charter discussions. It is estimated that several months of public consultation on speed limit changes could cost as much as $150,000.  The government could decide to reduce the speed limits on their own, and our public consultation would be redundant.  Why would The City pay for something that the province may choose to do anyways?  $150,000 may not seem like a lot of money, but I’m not sure it is worth spending for a possible duplication of work.

I’m not suggesting that 40km/h residential speed limits are a bad idea.  What I want to have is more clarity from CPS and from the province on what they intend to do.  Once we have that clarity, perhaps Council can revisit having a conversation about speed limits with Calgarians.

The Pedestrian Strategy is a smart investment for The City of Calgary.  From 2005-2014 there were 3,834 collisions where pedestrians were involved.  3,317 of these accidents caused injuries, and 95 resulted in fatalities.  This averages out to one Calgarian pedestrian being struck by a vehicle every day.

Colissons

The City has estimated that the societal cost of these collisions could be as high as $120M annually when you factor in hospital costs, legal costs and a number of other factors.  An investment from The City could certainly reduce this cost that impacts all of us.

Transporting safely around the city is to the benefit of all Calgarians.  Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have a shared responsibility to keep our streets safe.  I believe the actions outlined in the Pedestrian Strategy make our roads safer and easier to navigate for all users.