An Edmonton traffic expert says Winnipeg could see a reduction in collisions if the city follows through on a call to lower the speed limit on residential streets.
Gerry Shimko, a retired police officer who heads Edmonton's office of traffic safety, said lowering the speed limit by one kilometre per hour reduces the number of collisions by three per cent. Lower speeds help protect vulnerable road users -- such as pedestrians and cyclists -- and reduce the likelihood of crashes and injuries, he said.
Earlier this week, Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) introduced a motion at city council that calls on Winnipeg to reduce speed limits on residential streets to 40 km/h to improve road safety for children. The move came as city council approved a plan to reduce speed limits to 30 km/h in elementary-school zones on non-regional streets.
Smith's proposal will be reviewed by council's public works committee in September.
Two years ago, Edmonton launched a pilot project that reduced the posted speed limit to 40 km/h from 50 km/h in six residential neighbourhoods to test whether it improved safety. The city spent just under $500,000, erected 1,100 speed-limit signs, set up photo radar enforcement, used digital signs to warn drivers how fast they're travelling and enlisted the help of community volunteers who committed to driving the speed limit and acting as neighbourhood "pace cars."
Officials collected speed data 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for seven months.
Shimko said all six neighbourhoods saw a reduction in speed and collisions. A city report found the move reduced vehicle speeds by 2.25 km/h -- a 4.6 per cent decline -- during the seven-month period.
Adjacent neighbourhoods where the speed limit was still 50 km/h also saw a 1.6 per cent decline in vehicle speeds.
"Any time you can reduce speed by a portion, you get a reduction in collisions," Shimko said.
Winnipegger Jan Lowe, who lives next to a park and playground on Cordova Street in River Heights, said she regularly sees drivers speed past her home to get to Corydon or Grosvenor avenues. Six weeks ago, she made a sign to warn drivers to slow down for the children in the neighbourhood.
Lowe said she would like to see the city do more to curb speeding in residential neighbourhoods.
"Cars are just speeding along. They don't look, and they don't acknowledge there's a playground there," Lowe said. "I'm just concerned a toddler will dart out and there will be a tragedy."
Shimko said three Edmonton neighbourhoods have continued with the 40 km/h limit following the pilot project, and three decided against it. Edmonton considered enacting a city-wide speed limit of 40 km/h on residential streets, but found the city did not have the authority to change the default speed limit on city streets, he said.
Edmonton is drafting guidelines for neighbourhoods where 60 per cent of the residents want to lower the speed limit to 40 km/h, Shimko said. A report is expected to be complete this fall.
"In order to legally enforce it, it's fairly comprehensive," Shimko said.
Studies have shown reducing speed limits on certain streets can help slow drivers down.
London: A study found the introduction of 32 km/h zones was associated with a 42 per cent reduction in road casualties.
Portsmouth, England: Reducing speeds to 32 km/h from 48 km/h on residential roads reduced collisions by 13 per cent and the number of casualties by 15 per cent.
South Australia: On roads where the speed limit was reduced to 50 km/h from 60 km/h, average vehicle speeds decreased by 3.8 km/h after three years and casualty collisions fell by 23 per cent.
-- source: City of Edmonton office of traffic safety, speed limit reduction on residential roads