Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

In-street signs a good first step, says Calgary active transportation advocate

The signs will be installed at more than 300 crosswalk locations around K-6 schools in Calgary.

In-street crosswalk signs at Calgary elementary schools are a great idea, but a local youth active transportation group hopes the city takes it a step or two further.

The City of Calgary announced that after a successful pilot project of 52 randomly selected Calgary elementary schools and their crosswalks showed a reduction in speed and yielding, the signs would now be placed at more than 300 locations throughout the city.

“Our studies have shown that this type of signage, that is brightly-coloured and located in the roadway are noticeable to both drivers and pedestrians and have been found to slow motorists down and increase yielding,” said Surendra Mishra, traffic engineer in The City’s Mobility Traffic Safety group, in a prepared media release.

The city said it partnered with the University of Calgary in the 2020/21 school year to conduct the traffic safety study. As a part of the study, they tried different traffic calming measures at the 52 schools. They wanted to determine the impact of having in-street signs on speeds and the number of people walking or biking. Data was collected using pneumatic tubes and cameras, the city said.

The city said the data showed that there were slight reductions in vehicular speeds at locations with in-street signs, particularly during morning and afternoon periods. They said pedestrians also were recorded as feeling safer.

According to data collected, they saw a speed reduction of approximately one kilometre per hour during elementary school time periods.

“While these reductions in speed seem minimal, a systematic review and meta-analysis showed that for every 1 km/h increase in the speed a motor vehicle impacted a pedestrian, there was an overall 11% increase in the odds of a fatality,” the City of Calgary wrote in an email response.

Depending on site conditions, the cost of installation for each sign is between $500 and $1,000, the city said.

Good step for safety but questions remain

Laura Shutiak, executive director of Youth En Route, a group that promotes safe active transportation to school for Calgary youth, said she appreciates the city’s effort.

“Everything that we can do to make it safer for kids walking, biking, we are 100 per cent supportive,” she said.

Where questions arise for Shutiak, however, is in having these at K-6 schools, where there are playground zones already dropping speeds to 30 kilometers an hour, versus at junior or senior high schools where students often face precarious crossings along streets that are 60 or 80 kilometres an hour.

“At those schools, we’re not helping those kids,” she said.

Shutiak also said she’ll be interested to see if there’s equity in the distribution of the in-street signs, as parent advocacy plays a large role in the application of crosswalks around city schools.

“If we just put them with crosswalks that are existing now it’s not going to be very equitable around the city because we know that the way crosswalks have gone in around schools is through squeaky wheels,” she said.

Further evaluation of the missing infrastructure around all schools is important, Shutiak said, especially for equity.  Some schools have crosswalks at 100 metre intervals, others are 800 metres between crosswalks, she said. Also, the result of this pilot project reinforces the need for a 30 kilometre an hour speed limit in residential areas around Calgary.

The next step for the program should be to examine the impact on junior and senior high school crosswalks, with a plan to implement in-street signs in these areas as well, Shutiak said.

Installation of the signs will start this month with the goal of having them in place by the end of the 2023/24 school year, the city said. So far, 35 signs are in place, according to the city.