Speed limits will be reduced near Winnipeg elementary schools under new provincial legislation.
How soon the limits will be changed, and near which schools, will be up to Mayor Sam Katz and city councillors, who for the past 14 months have lobbied to lower the school-zone speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour from 50 km/h.
"We want to move on this post haste," Katz said Monday. "First, we have to pass a bylaw, which should take a couple of months, and then we have to start manufacturing and erecting signs."
Katz said the city wanted the signs up and enforcement to start before the beginning of the school year, but enabling legislation was only recently proclaimed.
'We first wanted to educate people, but we're doing this because we know drivers are not doing it voluntarily'
"We first wanted to educate people, but we're doing this because we know drivers are not doing it voluntarily."
The amendments to the Highway Traffic Act give all municipalities, including local government districts, First Nations and community councils, the legal ability to set the maximum speed limit as low as 30 km/h in school zones where the regularly posted speed is less than 80 km/h.
They can also set maximum speed limits as low as 50 km/h in school zones where the regularly posted speed is 80 km/h or higher, and designate specific dates and hours when reduced speed limits are in effect or set the limits to be in effect at all times.
The province also says reduced-speed school zones are limited to streets and highways adjacent to school property and must be within 150 metres of the boundary of that property.
Municipalities can also choose to have the speed limit reduced at all times in a school zone, recognizing children play during evenings and year-round.
The regulations don't stipulate the amount of fines for speeding in a school zone. The fine for speeding 10 km/h over the limit in a reduced-speed construction zone is $266. The general fine for speeding 10 km/h over the posted limit is $181. Both carry a two-demerit penalty.
Attorney General Andrew Swan said any local government that wants to reduce the speed limit in school zones must pass a bylaw that provides the detail required in the new Reduced-Speed School Zone Regulation.
Swan also said the regulations include provisions for the type, size and position of appropriate notifications and signage erected to inform drivers they're entering a reduced-speed school zone.
By law, signs must be reflective so they show the same colour and shape by night as by day, and not less than 100 metres or more than 250 metres before the zone begins.
Signs warning drivers of the lower speed limits will also be required at intersections on the roadways in the zones.
Swan said the new speed law is common sense as slower speeds mean shorter braking distances and fewer injuries should a child be hit.
"As anyone who drives around a school knows, kids are unpredictable," he said.
It also brings Winnipeg up to speed with cities in Western Canada that have had school speed laws for several years, including Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina. British Columbia also has provincewide legislation.
Many cities in the United States have similar laws. For example, Phoenix was the first city in the U.S. to establish a 15 mph (24 km/h) school zone in 1950. Speeding in a school zone in that city carries a minimum US$200 fine. Other cities in Arizona have 35 mph (55 km/h) school zones that stay in effect throughout the school day and are monitored by fixed-site photo-radar cameras.
Winnipeg School Division spokesman Dale Burgos said he welcomes the change, but would like it to apply to all schools, including those near busy streets such as Portage Avenue and Grant Avenue. "It's been a long time coming, he said.
Katz said elementary school is the focus because high school students are more road-savvy than younger kids.