With the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues proposing to reduce the speed limit on residential roads from the current 50 km/hr to 40 km/hr, speed limits are, not surprisingly, back in the news in this city. In the last couple of days David Staples has written about the proposed change and the Edmonton Journal has published an editorial on the subject as well. This comes on the heels of a local doctor bringing the issue to residents’ attention by saying that the city is not taking pedestrian safety seriously. Me being me, and loving Twitter more than is probably healthy, I’ve waded into the discussion on that platform on two occasions (you can find Storify records of my thoughts here and here), but it being a complex subject I thought that discussing the subject in more than 140 characters might not be a bad idea.
I’ve written about lower speed limits and the effect that can have on pedestrian safety before, so it’s not surprising that I support the idea of reducing speed limits on residential roads in Edmonton, and throughout Alberta and Canada for that matter. There are roadways where higher speed limits are appropriate but when people and cars start to mix it’s worth considering a change because at 50 km/hr people and cars are a deadly combination. Why then do we have speed limits on our local roads that are so dangerous for everyone but those that are in cars? That’s a good question.
Don’t read the comments. Those are words to live by, and generally, I do a pretty decent job of doing just that. Whether it’s the comments on a story that I agree with, or a story that I don’t, I’ve found, like I’m sure many others have as well, that it’s often better to just avoid the crazy that inhabits the comment section and move on to something else. Sometimes though, for reasons that I can’t explain, I read the comments. And worse still, it’s almost always in a situation where there is a high likelihood of my finding something that will bother me.
This is what happened on Monday when I came across a story from CBC on the possibility of the speed limits on Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue being lowered as a measure to help improve pedestrian safety. This is a very interesting topic – one that I’ll eventually get to in the post – but any time that it’s even suggested that a speed limit should be reduced the knee jerk reaction from some is always going to be no. The situation or the reason for the change doesn’t matter, all that matters is that a reduced speed limit is wrong. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what I found in the comments.
Both my office and my favourite pub are located on Jasper Avenue. And because I really like beer I find myself walking the nine blocks between the two probably at least once a week. Because of the rehabilitation work that was being completed on Jasper Avenue and below street level on Central Station there was an element of surprise to the walk for more than a year. Which side would be open? Would I have to cross Jasper multiple times? Where would the crosswalks be? But now that construction is complete (mostly) at street level those questions are a thing of the past and now I can enjoy the last three blocks of the walk in a friendlier pedestrian environment with much wider sidewalks.
For those that might not know, the Jasper Avenue rehabilitation work included reducing the portion of the right-of-way that was being used by cars and using the newfound space to widen the sidewalks. A cross-section that previously included on-street parking and two driving lanes in each direction has been shrunk down and is now just two lanes wide with the curb lane designated for parking during off peak hours. In terms of providing a space for pedestrians projects like this are fantastic in that they provide an attractive, pedestrian friendly corridor. In this case with that added benefit of having very little impact on those who drive Jasper Avenue since there is the same capacity available during rush hour – provided nobody parks on the street when they shouldn’t. Toss in a pedestrian scramble intersection at 100A Street and this is the kind of project that I can’t help but like.
And I do like it, but I’d like to suggest something if I could: Change the signal timings just a little bit, please. Continue reading