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Calgary community says having a 30km/h speed limit comes with mixed results

Crescent Road overlooking McHugh Bluff has million-dollar homes, and million-dollar views of Calgary’s skyline.

It also has one of the few 30 km/h zones in the city that isn’t a playground zone.

Larry McCook was on his front deck enjoying the view Wednesday morning. He’s lived on Crescent Road for more than 40 years. He doesn’t remember how long it’s been a 30km/h zone, but he’s glad it’s slower than most of the city’s residential areas.

The only problem, he says, is that many drivers don’t adhere to the speed limit.

“They speed down there like crazy,” said McCook.

A group of Calgary councillors are proposing to lower the speed limit on Calgary’s residential roads to 30km/h from 50km/h. The change wouldn’t affect larger “collector roads” and thoroughfares.

McCook thinks it’s a good idea if it means fewer collisions and pedestrian injuries. He’s just not sure that changing the number will actually get people to slow down.

“The city will do well with tickets,” he said with a laugh.

Just down the street, Kathryn Waters, a nanny who works for a family that lives on Crescent Heights, agrees with McCook that the signs don’t necessarily equate to slower drivers.

“I would say that very few people adhere to that speed limit – and I don’t know that those people are local,” she said.

Waters said it’s the speed bumps that can also be found along Crescent Road that really cause people to slow down.

Regardless of whether or not it works perfectly on Crescent Road, she thinks the 30km/h proposal is worth pursuing.

“I for one think it’s a great idea. Because the little kids especially are a motivation for me. Given enough time, the speeds will come down.”

City administration understands all-too-well the difference between posted speed limits and the speeds people travel, according to Tony Churchill, senior traffic engineer and leader of traffic safety with the City of Calgary.

“What we would actually want to achieve is a change in operating speeds,” said Churchill. “A change in the posted speed limit is not going to necessarily result in a change in operating speed unless some other things change, too.”

Churchill says the city has data from its own experience in changing school zones to playground zones, and the data shows that reducing speed limits makes roads safer.

The study found that there was a measurable drop in the collision rate city wide after school zones became playground zones – which in effect increased the number of 30km/h zones in the city.

Dropping speed limits in residential areas is not unprecedented in Alberta. The city of Airdrie did it back in 1982.

However Mayor Peter Brown noted that Airdrie was more of a farming town then, with a population of about 10,000 and a single stoplight.

Brown said it “absolutely works” for Airdrie.

“Once you’re there and you’re doing it, it’s not a big shift,” he said.

Brown noted the widely cited statistics which say pedestrians are far more likely to survive a collision at 30 or 40 km/h than they are at 50 km/h.

He said he often visits his brother who lives in a Calgary suburb, and he always worried about his children playing outside, because of the speeding vehicles he sees there.

“At the end of the day it’s going to make it a heck of a lot safer for everybody,” said Brown.