Report on reduced speed limits near playgrounds finds support for idea in Edmonton
City administration released a report Thursday, outlining support for the idea of implementing playground speed limits, and the next steps the City could take to implement the idea.
The report, set to go before councillors on the Community and Public Services Committee, comes months after the committee passed a motion asking for a report on playground speed limits back on October 17, 2016.
The report said there are only 36 playgrounds in Edmonton that are included under the current school zone speed limit reduction to 30 kilometres per hour, but 178 stand-alone playgrounds don’t, and there are 194 playgrounds located near schools, but not close enough to be included in the school zone speed limit.
Officials said they looked at five other Canadian cities to determine best practices: Vancouver, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Toronto, and Calgary.
Officials found Vancouver is the only city that has playground speed limits in place, Toronto determines playground zones on a case by case basis according to certain criteria, and Calgary’s playground zones are restricted to playgrounds located near Elementary schools, and some stand-alone playgrounds.
Saskatoon and Ottawa don’t have playground zones, the report states.
In Calgary, speed limit reductions for school zones are in place between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., and playground zones from 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset. However, in 2014, Calgary combined the two zones to create one type of speed reduction, from 50 kilometres per hour to 30 kilometres per hour around schools and playgrounds from 7:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Officials cited a survey, conducted by Banister Research and Consulting Inc, that they said showed “significant support” for implementing speed limit reductions around playgrounds.
The survey, which asked 405 Edmontonians about speed limits around playgrounds in late March, 2017. The survey found 85 percent of those surveyed were in favour of a reduced speed limit around playgrounds, and 85 percent were in favour or lowering the speed limit around stand-alone playgrounds.
“I don’t think there’s a single person in the City of Edmonton who can’t relate to having a family or small children that, this is just an opportunity to create a safer community,” Gerry Shimko, Executive Director for Traffic Safety and Parks and Roads said. “I think everyone understands that and the time that’s actually saved by going faster is so minimal that it’s not even worth consideration.”
As for potentially combining speed limit reductions around schools and playgrounds, 84 percent of respondents were in support of the idea.
When asked about times for potential playground zones to be in effect, 49 percent of respondents wanted set times, such as between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., and 37 percent wanted them to be in effect between dawn and dusk – in response to that question, 12 percent were not in favour of playground speed limit reductions.
This came more than a year and a half after City Council approved a three-year funding plan for the Road Safety Strategy, also called Vision Zero, which has a long-term goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries on Edmonton’s streets to zero.
Work so far on the strategy has included implementing 30 kilometre per hour school zones around elementary schools, the zones will expand to junior high schools city-wide in time for the 2017-2018 school year.
“It seems like the natural evolution to consider playgrounds,” Councillor Bev Esslinger said in a phone interview with CTV News from Ottawa.
When the zones were first implemented, officials said injury collisions were reduced by 43 percent, while injury collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists were reduced by 71 percent.
The default speed limit in Edmonton is 50 kilometres per hour.
As for next steps, officials said: “There are a number of complexities that require Administration to do further work before making a recommendation on how to proceed with the implementation of playground speed limits.”
Currently, officials said there is a proposal under consideration in discussions over the City Charter that would allow cities to vary certain parts of the Traffic Safety Act, including default speed limits. Administration said if that proposal is included in the City Charters, it would allow administration greater power to change speed limits.
However, if that proposal isn’t included, officials recommended moving forward with the tiered plan to change speed limits. The proposed plan to implement speed changes would be presented to Council at some point in the first quarter of 2018, and then be included in funding considerations that spring.
The report indicated the estimated cost for adding signage at the 178 stand-alone playgrounds is estimated to be about $1,500 per location, or $267,000 in total. The estimated cost to change the signs at school zones to be playground zone signs at 230 locations is also $1,500, or totaling $345,000.
The total estimated cost is pegged at $612,000. Meanwhile, an awareness campaign to educate drivers about it is expected to be $100,000, which would come out of the existing Traffic Safety operating budget.
The report will go before the committee on June 8.
With files from Susan Amerongen