Saskatoon considers lower residential speed limits

Saskatoon considers lower residential speed limits
City report suggests cutting residential speeds to 30 km/h
A Saskatoon city hall report is advocating for lowering speed limits on neighbourhood streets to 30 km/h.

The report cites speeding concerns from residents expressed in over 40 neighbourhood traffic studies conducted by the city over the last five years.

While residents may have expressed concerns, the report notes measurements taken as  part of the traffic studies found few instances of drivers travelling over 10 per cent above posted speed limits.

The report suggests the discrepancy between people’s perception of the speeding issue in their neighbourhoods and the actual speeding data points to a problem.

“This indicates that the posted speed limit is an issue, as it does not align with current individual and neighbourhood community values or expectations,” the report reads.

City administration is asking city council to approve a plan allowing staff to “develop a detailed framework for revising posted speed limits on neighbourhood streets, including school and playground zones.”

The proposed framework would look at reducing speed limits in neighbourhood residential streets and collector roads, such as Kingsmere Boulevard and Stensrud Road.

However, the report notes arterial roads with multiple school zones like Clarence Avenue and Taylor Street wouldn’t be considered for speed zone reductions — but staff would look at traffic calming measures in “high priority” areas along the roads.

The author writes that the average commute in Saskatoon is 3.95 kilometres long and lasts 19.7 minutes, with less than one kilometre of travel on neighbourhood streets.

It notes travelling at 30 km/h instead of 50 km/h would extend that average commute by “less than a minute.”

The report also cites traffic safety as a consideration, noting 90 per cent of “vulnerable road users” —pedestrians and cyclists — survive collisions at 30 km/h as opposed to a 20 per cent chance at 50 km/h.

City councillors on the transportation committee will consider the report on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Residents perception that vehicles are speeding when they arent behind move to look at lower limits

Saskatoon city hall seems ready to join the cities that are engaged in a difficult debate about lower speed limits on residential roads.

On Tuesday, city council’s transportation committee will consider a proposal by city administration to move forward with consideration of lower residential speed limits.

A City of Saskatoon report suggests reviews of complaints about speeding in neighbourhoods throughout Saskatoon shows motorists may not actually be travelling faster or much faster than 50 kilometres per hour, Saskatoon’s default speed limit for residential roads.

“The posted speed limit may not align with current individual and neighbourhood community values, or expectations,” the report says. “Many municipalities have reduced, or are considering reducing the posted speed limit on neighbourhood streets.”

The city has conducted 40 neighbourhood traffic reviews with another 10 in progress where the most common complaint raised is speeding through neighbourhoods, the report says. As a result, the city has conducted about 500 speed reviews on residential streets.

The city sets a threshold for the share of vehicles travelling at 55 km/h to determine whether it takes action to address speeding, but in many cases, vehicle speeds do not meet that threshold.

“This perception of speeding is a result from the vehicle operating (at) speeds ‘feeling’ too fast for residents,” the report explains.

The report also suggests the possibility of playground zones, which have been raised several times by city councillors.

No alternate speed limit is proposed, but information in the report details that studies show the risk of severe injury or death declines at lower vehicle speeds: From 80 per cent at 50 km/h to to 40 per cent at 40 km/h to 10 per cent at 30 km/h.

As for commuters, the report suggests lowering the residential speed limit to 30 km/h would only add one minute to the average Saskatoon commute of just under 20 minutes.

The report cites Statistics Canada data that the average Saskatoon commute of 3.95 kilometres includes less than one kilometre on residential streets.

The report stems from an inquiry by Coun. Ann Iwanchuk in 2017 that sought to determine whether speeding concerns were actually supported by data or whether in many cases the speed just seemed faster than 50 km/h.

But there are plenty of lead-footed drivers in Saskatoon, too. The 18-officer Saskatoon Police Service traffic unit nailed 6,300 drivers for speeding in the first seven months of this year, the report says.

Mayor Charlie Clark tried to convince his colleagues to consider a residential speed limit when he was a city councillor in 2011, but the effort failed. A report from city administration at the time suggested a lower speed limit would not substantially reduce actual speeds and the cost of posting signs would be high.

In 2016, city hall opted to lower the speed limit to 40 km/h in Montgomery Place, a unique neighbourhood in Saskatoon with virtually no sidewalks. City council backed the speed limit reduction, even though city administration staff warned they did not believe the move would actually reduce speeds.

A 2017 study of vehicle speeds in Montgomery showed the new speed limit produced mixed results. Lower average speeds were identified at some locations, while in others speeds marginally increased.

If the transportation committee supports considering lower speed limits, it will then be debated at council on Oct. 22. No strategy on how to proceed would be expected before next summer.