You may have seen signs going up already. After over a decade of conversations, engagement, and proposals, Edmonton’s quiet residential streets and some key main streets will be receiving a speed limit update. The update involves shifting to a speed limit of 40 km/h in areas that are mainly residential or on streets with a greater focus on walkability and local businesses (like Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue).
This change is definitely a step in the right direction and will have a negligible impact on most commutes by vehicle. The residential streets in your neighbourhood make up the beginning and end of the drive, but most of the time you spend in a car will still be on arterials or highways where the speed limit will be 50 km/h or greater.
See how your commute will change using this tool.
The cost of this change is also minor in terms of the City’s spending on transportation and is paid for via the Traffic Safety Automated Enforcement Reserve. There have been communities in Ward Metis that have had this speed limit in place for years, such as Ottewell and King Edward Park. I think it’s enhanced the livability of these neighbourhoods, making them a safer place to live.
We All Need to Move Around
Regardless of age, ability, or the mode you choose to get around, Edmontonians should be able to safely navigate their city in all seasons. The speed limit contributes to this overall safety. Reducing the speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h reduces the chances of injury and fatality significantly.
When we use our vehicles at a slower speed, we can react and respond to issues in a shorter overall distance. If we end up in a collision, the vehicle we are driving would impact other street users with less force. No matter which end of the collision you are on, travelling slower means less risk.
On quiet residential streets and main streets, a speed limit reduction is the right move. In a city where we lament about the lack of community spaces, our residential streets are a woefully under-utilized resource.
Streets are important places to connect with neighbours. Throwing around the football, playing street hockey, or simply going out for a walk are activities that knit together a greater sense of community. The quiet residential street is the backdrop for all of this, so we should make it safer to allow for community life to flourish.
Streets for People
Walkable main streets are at the core of the idea of 15-minute communities, where everything you need is only a 15-minute walk, roll, bike, or transit ride. By engaging with the local business community, I hope to learn about whether more main streets in our district, like 118 Avenue, may be interested in a change like this to support pedestrian walkability.
The redesign of 101 Avenue is another project I am really passionate about. This redesign should reflect the surrounding neighbourhood’s aspirations for this corridor to become more of a pedestrian friendly main street, with a speed limit that reflects this.
More Than Just Speed Limits - Design Matters Too
But I know there’s more to street safety than speed limits. Having served on the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues Street Speeds Committee, I have learned from communities that we can do more to prevent shortcutting, and improve unsafe crossings with low-cost solutions such as rubber speed cushions and flexible bollards.
Our existing streets will still be built and designed the way they were when we drove 50 km/h on them. We need to collaborate with communities to identify problem areas and implement targeted interventions.
One day soon these will be deployed as active interventions in our communities and I am excited to visit them. I'm at the doors now, and street safety is a top priority for many. I would like to work with these communities and help empower them to make their communities safer.
Your freedom to safely and comfortably navigate our city is at the top of my priority list. As an urban planner, I understand that being able to safely navigate our city is a fundamental part of building communities that works for all of us. I served on Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues Street Speeds Committee because I will always support interventions and policies that contribute to safer streets.
Children, seniors, and people with disabilities have a right to move around. Families have a right to know their kids can safely walk to school and play in their neighbourhoods. Traffic deaths and injuries are not inevitable. We can prevent them. Reducing speed limits is a step in the direction, and I look forward to working with communities to support safe streets interventions.
If you and your neighbours are interested in plugging into this work, check out the resources provided in the new Safe Speeds Toolkit.
Written by: Ashley Salvador & Stephen Raitz