An Update on Playground Zones and Residential Speed Limits

I wanted to provide an update on the recent discussions that have taken place at City Hall regarding playground zones and lowering of residential speed limits.

At the April 18 Community and Public Services meeting, and again at the April 24 Council meeting, playground zones and lowering of residential speed limits were discussed in conjunction.

Playground Zones

I brought to these meetings the results of my survey, which showed that of the 1,200 respondents, many were frustrated with the status quo of playground zones that seemed to have little consideration of surrounding factors, including fencing, the classification of the roadway, whether there is playground equipment present, and so on.

Thankfully, there is a solution that has been available all along, that I will be pushing for Council to use - a Playground Zone Input Worksheet that was developed by Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure. At the next Council meeting on May 8, we will be debating my motion to have a review of all current playground zones applied to this matrix, which will likely see a  reduction in the amount of playground zones. The motion also has some other common sense measures to ensure playground zones aren’t overreaching, and in turn, actually keep our kids safe.

In fact, the resounding message that I have heard is that Ward 9 residents care about the safety of children in our neighbourhoods, and are willing to drive slower where it makes sense - the main source of frustration is the lack of data driven decision making and common sense applied to the implementation of these zones.

Residential Speed Limits

I relayed concerns about the lack of a clear and concise definition for roadways in our neighborhoods, and the fact that one person's idea of a local road could be very different from another. I also raised concerns about the language used in the development of reports, and the unnecessary adversarial relationship that is heightened between drivers and pedestrians and other roadway users when we use such language.

There is a very different experience between those in mature neighbourhoods on gridded streets, and those in the neighbourhoods typically found in Ward 9 with curved roadways and crescents, cul-de-sacs, and so on.  We continue to make the mistake of using the same definitions to apply to these very different driving environments.

I was successful in having two other motions pass so that we can use more data and common sense when it comes to our decisions, and they read as follows:

General Roadway Safety

That Administration provide data on the location of pedestrian accidents and fatalities, by age, over the 5 years prior to the establishment of school and playground zones, and cross reference that data to the location of playground zones today

Residential Speed Limits

That Administration do the following:

  1. Develop revised definitions of local, collector, arterial and residential roads, and other road definitions, that consider current and intended volume of traffic, roadway geometry, and surrounding land uses;
  2. Develop a set of universal maximum speed limits based on these revised definitions;
  3. Develop criteria regarding speed reduction zones, including but not limited to playground zones, that reduces the site specific speed limit to accommodate unique circumstances;
  4. Wherever possible, use existing provincial legislation and guidelines to complete the work in items a to c above;
  5. Engage with residents and communities to develop an understanding and gather feedback for vision zero, current traffic safety concerns, the new definitions and potential pros and cons to residents on possible speed limit changes;
  6. Develop a mechanism whereby residents can request a review of a particular road to establish a revised speed limit.
  7. Prepare Draft amendments to the Speed Limits Bylaw and a proposed implementation plan in consideration of the work above.

I anticipate that the data requested in the Roadway Safety Survey will be available this fall, while it’s expected a report on Residential Speed Limits will be returned in early 2019.

I truly believe that it’s important to take the time to do things right the first time, rather than doing them quickly without due diligence. We’ve seen rush jobs before on bike lanes, and playground zones that will have to go back and be fixed. Let’s take the time to get speed limits right and use data driven decision making to get us to the best possible outcome.

If you want to hear more of my thoughts on these important topics, feel free to listen to my interview on CBC Radio, or watch a clip from Global Edmonton.

Please continue to stay engaged with my office on these important topics, and any other municipal issues you may have.