Drivers could be forced to slow down on some of Edmonton’s busiest streets, as the city looks at lower speed limits to protect pedestrians.
The city’s Office of Traffic Safety is considering whether to drop the speed limit of parts of Whyte Avenue, Jasper Avenue and 97th Street to 40 kilometres an hour.
“We’ll really have to see where the evidence leads us but it’s a dialogue with the community,” said executive director Gerry Shimko.
“We have to see what the safety benefits overall are.”
Shimko said that lowering the speed limits along pedestrian-heavy routes could reduce costs for healthcare and emergency services.
But more importantly, he said it could save lives. Since 2011, two pedestrians have been killed and several others injured while crossing Whyte Avenue.
Last summer, the city’s mayor called for a review of the city’s pedestrian safety after a 19-year-old woman was critically injured while in a crosswalk on Jasper Avenue.
Tyler Hayes has lived near Whyte Avenue for a decade. In that time, he’s witnessed close calls and injured pedestrians.
“I’ve seen close calls for sure. People have been hit, friends of mine,” he said.
One woman Hayes knows had to spend several days in the hospital after being clipped by a car that was making a right-hand turn. He said he would like to see the speed limit dropped on the busy avenue.
“At nighttime, people just want to get where they’re going and they don’t consider where pedestrians are.”
Shimko said the city has done some work to make Whyte Avenue safer, like upgrading traffic signals and pedestrian crossings along the road. But given the number of people using the routes, both on foot and in vehicles, he said slower speeds might be the next step.
A lower speed limit might not only prevent collisions, but make pedestrians more likely to survive if they are hit by a vehicle.
The challenge is balancing the protection of pedestrians with the need to keep traffic moving smoothly; lower speeds can also mean a lower capacity for vehicles.
“There’s always trade-offs right, capacity over safety,” he said.
However, when deciding between congestion and safety, Shimko said the city falls on preventing collisions.
The recommendation to lower speed limits will be part of a road safety strategy that city councillors will consider in the spring.