What could change, what isn’t changing with speed limits

City traffic experts will spend the next seven months building a new, community-inspired speed limit structure for local residential and collector roads in Edmonton.

The new speed limit bylaw, which still needs final City Council approval, would establish:

  • A city-wide default speed limit of 40 km/h on both local residential and collector roadways
  • A default speed limit of 30 km/h on local residential roadways in the Core Zone
    Mayor Don Iveson admitted the proposed solution would not deliver one, uniform speed limit for residential and collector roads, but defended the 40-30 plan in light of the logic of different roadway designs in different parts of the city.

    “The instinct to come up with a ‘one size fits all’ bumped into the reality that the city has very, very different conditions that date back to the context of development at the time,” said Mayor Iveson of the generally different shapes and sizes of roads in and out of the Core Zone.

    “I think what we’ve been able to accomplish here is something consistent and straightforward within the context,” he said. “The context in some of the core neighbourhoods, where the roads are narrower, is, I think, 30 makes sense.”  

    The Mayor gave a tip of the hat to City Administration and community advocates for their combined work to enhance safety.

    Community, Administration, Council: May 14, 2019 (Councillor Bev Esslinger joined on phone)

    Community, Administration, Council: May 14, 2019 (Councillor Bev Esslinger joined on phone)

    “The receptivity from Administration is to be commended, and, underlying that, the advocacy itself of the citizens is to be saluted, because it has had an impact here today,” the Mayor said, “I believe, certainly in my thinking, and my sense is it will have informed Council’s deliberations on this, as well.”

    Arterial roads

    Speed limits for arterial roads, whether in or out of the Core Zone, are not changing, however, some arterials in high pedestrian locations, including Whyte Avenue, will be studied for speed suitability.

    Core Zone

    The Core Zone is the approximate shape of the box below in which blue represents the zone borders, red the arterial roads in the zone, yellow the collector roads in the zone, and green the local roads.

    Map credit: #YEGCoreZone

    Map credit: #YEGCoreZone

    So, red arterial roads inside or outside of the Core Zone: no planned change from today.

    Yellow collectors in the zone would change from a default 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

    Green local roads in the zone would change from a default 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

    Collecting collector info for exemptions

    Between now and January, when its report and proposed bylaw wording are due back to City Council, City Administration will review the speed limits on all collector roads to see if some merit remaining at 50 km/h. A non-statutory public hearing will also be held.

    Gord Cebryk is the Deputy City Manager of City Operations. His team will lead the work over the next few months.

    “We are driving safety home,” said Cebryk.

    “This is about community—the safety of our communities, and how communities work together,  with each other, and with City Hall to make life in Edmonton safer,” Cebryk said. “We are committed to safety.”

    We put a few more questions to Cebryk about safety, the Core Zone, collectors that should stay at 50 km/h—and speed limit signs.

    City Administration will also report back on resources needed to accomplish roadway safety goals, including traffic calming measures, speed reduction and enforcement, safe roadway crossings and the results of University of Calgary and Calgary Police Service research.

    As well, a report on what caused the 711 pedestrian-related collisions over the last decade in Edmonton will be presented.

    The language of the road

    Local roads provide direct access to property and are often narrow and lined with houses and apartments. Traffic volume is low.

    Here, at 148 St and 89 Ave, is an example of a local/residential road:


    Here, on 123 St between 102 Ave and 104 Ave, is another example of a local road:


    Collector roads vary in size and appearance, and connect local and arterial roads. They may give access to residences, small businesses, churches and recreation centres. ETS buses generally operate on collector roads within neighbourhoods.

    Here, on 121 St just before it connects to 104 Ave, is an example of a collector road in the Core Zone.

    121stJasper Avenue one example of an arterial road.

    jasperaveYellowhead Trail is another example of an arterial road.yellowhead  
    Editor’s Note: We’ll update this story over the months ahead. Thanks for reading.


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    1. Gordon Gee
      4 months ago

      Any major change like this that will impact the majority of its citizens should go to a plebiscite vote!

      Though gut reaction indicates that lower speed limits would lower fatality rates and damage, there are other factors that need be considered.

      Though there has been long documented data showing that using the 85th Percentile Rule for setting speed limits may be safer, most cities will set the limits lower for a number of reasons, some valid, some not.

      A factor that must be considered is that setting an artificially low limit that is significantly lower than the 85th Percentile can lead to greater driver frustration and carelessness, leading to more accidents, not less.

      There will always be drivers that obey the posted limit, but are they safer drivers? Not necessarily as these same drivers may still be the ones that break other rules of the road such as not stopping for pedestrians at cross walks, stopping illegally for pedestrians in the middle of the road, not signal, distracted driving while eating or dealing with the kids in the back seat, reaching for a cigarette, etc.

      There are other drivers that will always speed, change lanes erratically, and lower limits will not change this.

      Those that drive to the 85th Percentile are usually in the middle, and though exceeding the posted limit, may in fact, be less likely to cause an accident! Remember, it is the difference in speed that causes accidents, and by extension, damage and fatality.

      An interesting thing happened when the school zones lowered their limits to 30. Watch as parents now illegally cross the road with their children between the marked crossing, likely believing that since the cars are moving so slowly, that it is safe for them to do so. But have they now taught their children to become less observant on the streets?

      Where is a pedestrian more likely to be very considered and observant crossing a road? Likely while crossing a busy major thoroughfare! On slower roads, I’ve seen many cross texting on their phones, not even looking up for traffic!
      Yes, physics dictates that much more damage is done at a higher speed than even 10 or 20 km lower. But let’s not just use that as the only factor to consider.

      But I reiterate, a major change like this that impacts most of the citizens needs to go to a plebiscite vote. We don’t want to spend money making a mistake and pay to have to change things back again when we vote in a different city council which I know many of us are ready to do.

    2. Joe Thomas
      4 months ago

      Having witnessed firsthand city council incompetence on various issues around our neighborhood…it goes without saying that this is another boondoggle awaiting to mature. Time for a change!

    3. Kurt Hartmann
      4 months ago

      I have a bad feeling about this. When driving at 30 km/h ones mind tends to wander and we could very well see an increase of distracted driving; hence more accidents at lower speed. Does a reduction in severity justify increased incident?

    4. maria
      4 months ago

      Instead of reduced speed in school zones all day, why not follow the example of Phoenix areas where reduced speed signs are placed on the middle of the road during school hours only. They certainly capture a driver’s attention far better than signs posted at the right side of the road.


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