The Facts on the Residential Speed Limit Review

It’s clear to me and many others, that there are those who are set on listening to misinformation in the media. Especially when it comes to the Neighbourhood Speed Limit Review.

Rather than take the time to properly represent the facts, certain columnists and even councillors just want to hijack the conversation, shout thin rhetoric into an echo chamber, and punch another hole in their fan club appreciation card.

That’s not loyalty, that’s the sort of behaviour that disrespects Calgarians’ intelligence.

So, it’s time to pull out my teacher’s red pen again.

Time for the real facts.

Based on previous Council Direction, the Safer Mobility Plan 2019-2023 aimed to improve road safety for Calgarians and bring us closer towards a transportation network free of fatalities and major injuries.

See the Vision Zero approach here: https://pub-calgary.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=120352

The most important part of the Vision Zero approach is achieving operating speeds that reduce the likelihood of a fatality or serious injury for all users by reducing impact energy.

Collisions involving injury or fatalities is an important issue for Calgarians, and rightly so.

According to Item 8.2.2 Neighbourhood Speed Limit Review (TT2020-1036) Attachment 2: Technical Analysis Report of the November 2nd, 2020 Combined Meeting of Council, there was an average of 9,100 collisions per year on Calgary neighbourhood streets with an average of 550 of them resulting in serious injury or death.

Here’s the link to the Nov 2 Combined Meeting of Council: https://pub-calgary.escribemeetings.com/Meeting.aspx?Id=e949d625-ada3-4950-8571-7175c76bd5cf&Agenda=Merged&lang=English&Item=39

You can review the report in its entirety by clicking here

Many residents have expressed to council that they are tired of vehicles speeding on their streets. The first step to ensuring safer residential travelling and reducing the frequency and severity of collisions is to adjust the unposted speed limit on residential roads.

The recommendations put forward would only apply to residential roads. There are no proposed changes to playground zones or higher classification roads (e.g. Deerfoot Trail, Bow Trail, Anderson Road, Memorial Drive, etc.)

To clarify, residential roads are the roads in front of most houses that typically have no center line, and have less traffic.  

The data speaks for itself. Sure, there are many facets to the conversations and issues we as councillors discuss with our constituents, but this one is easy.

Slower speeds = safer streets.

Keep in mind, a number of studies have demonstrated that driving at 50km/h in neighbourhoods is risky for everyone and leaves little margin for error. A small reduction in speed can drastically reduce the chance of collision. You have more time to react, a more broad field of view, and less severity of injury if a crash were to occur. This also means cyclists and pedestrians have more time to react.

Other cities across Canada, North America, and globally, have found that reducing driving speeds in neighbourhoods has reduced the frequency and severity of collisions.

This conversation isn’t a tool to earn easy favour. It’s about doing the hard work of informing Calgarians of the benefits, and the facts.

People are being harmed as a result of traffic collisions in neighbourhoods on residential roads across all of Calgary. Yes, there are some specific neighbourhoods that have more collisions than others, but it would be inefficient to address these locations with specifically targeted street-by-street, intersection-by-intersection traffic calming measures.

The benefit of a speed limit reduction is that it is a measure that targets residential roads in all neighbourhoods, and can reduce the frequency of collisions more effectively in all neighbourhoods.

You can’t say that the entire city will become a playground zone.

Let’s look at a map of proposed adjustments in Ward 12.

You can view these maps for all the Wards here: https://www.calgary.ca/transportation/roads/traffic/traffic-safety-programs/residential-speed-limits.html

As you can see, roads in grey, playground zones, and existing reduced speed zones will remain unchanged. All of the red lines are staying at 50km/h.

The yellow lines are the residential roads that will have their speed reduced to 40 km/h.

This is just on the street you live on, not the collector roads. We’re not turning the city into a playground zone.

Let’s use Riverbend as an example.

When you’re coming off Glenmore Trail going southbound into Riverbend, the speed limit of 18th Street is 50km/h. That hasn’t changed. Turning on 21st street SE? That’s still 50 km/h. Are you turning onto a residential road, like River Rock Way SE? That’s when you slow down from 50km/h to 40km/h.

Here’s the thing, responsible drivers are already doing that.

But not all drivers.

This chart is taken from chapter 3 of the same Attachment 2: Technical Analysis Report I mentioned earlier.

  • Average Speed: The numerical average, or mean, of a sample of vehicle speed measured.
  • 85th Percentile Speed: The speed at which 85% of drivers are travelling at or below This measure is commonly used in engineering processes to indicate an upper boundary of ‘normal’ behaviour.
  • Design Speed: This refers to a vehicle speed that a given roadway has been designed to accommodate, such that a driver travelling down the road at that speed should be able to maintain control of their vehicle, remain in their designated lane, and stop in time to avoid hazards or yield the right-of-way as required.
  • Speeding: Any driver driving in excess of the posted or unposted speed limit is speeding. While speeding is sometimes considered a factor in collisions from a liability perspective, for the purposes of this study, whether or not someone is speeding is less relevant than the physics at play relative to the speed of vehicles and the design environment.

So based on this sampling on speed data it’s suggested that most people drive near or below the current speed limits when driving in neighbourhoods.

But there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Recording an 85th percentile speed that is slightly higher than the posted speed limit means that more than 15% of motorists are still not compliant with the speed limit.   

Similarly, observed behaviours on Residential roads demonstrate that the vast majority of drivers complying with the existing speed limit. As a result, it is essential to note that the current collision rates observed in Calgary neighbourhoods are the result of the challenges all drivers face safely operating in these environments at the current speed limits. It is also worth noting that this is a new glimpse into behaviour in Neighbourhoods. Speed information for higher-order streets typically shows average speeds at or slightly above the posted limit, with 85th percentile speeds 6-10 km/h above the limit

For those who are saying this is just a city-wide cash grab, I’ve got a simple solution.

Don’t speed.

The vast majority of those who get hit with the photo radar or electronic enforcement are those who speed all the time. And we have to understand, if you’re going to speed all the time, I will gladly take your money.

You might be wondering about the costs of resigning roads. Yes, there will be some costs, but many of them will come from the budget already set aside for traffic improvement. Also, the speed reduction is expected to save the city annually by reducing the number of yearly collisions.

Are you worried bout an increase to your travel time? Worry not. The impact to your travel time is about the same time it takes to brush the snow off your car after a light snow. 1-2 minutes.

The amount of time spent on residential and collector roads are relatively small for most typical commutes. The City conducted a study of travel times and travel time reliability and found to vary by more than 2 minutes a day with a standard deviation in each trip ranging between 3.1 and 5.5 minutes per trip.

What does that mean?

It means the Neighbourhood Speed Limit Review will have less impact on your travelling times than the normal day-to-day fluctuating variations experienced daily. Things such as traffic volume.   

This isn’t a decision that requires a plebiscite. It’s a non-issue. The proposed changes are small but will have a positive and large impact on the safety of Calgarians. The entire city is not being made into a playground zone, the costs are coming from existing budget for traffic improvements, has minimal impact to travel times, and provides the city with greater authority to enforce responsible driving.

Slam dunk.

Easy Decision.

At least it should be.

This is a safety issue, not a political debate. We’re dealing with the facts. There isn’t a need to go for a plebiscite when the benefits outweigh the perceived negative impacts by such a large margin.

This has nothing to do with the intelligence of Calgarians, in fact, Calgarians are smart when given the correct and truthful information.

For those of you who love listening to opinion columnists or councillors who deal in soundbites, not reality, take a moment to read into the facts. City administration has done their due diligence in representing the different components and reasoning of the Neighbourhood Speed Limit Review. 

All of this information is readily available here: https://www.calgary.ca/transportation/roads/traffic/traffic-safety-programs/residential-speed-limits.html

Calgarians are more than capable to make decisions when the correct information is given, not purposeful misrepresentations that only muddy the efforts of those who want to do well by making Calgary a safer city.