A new, community-driven idea will be presented to Edmonton City Council's Community and Public Services Committee on April 24th, the #YEGCoreZone
So what is the #YEGCoreZone?
In a nutshell, the Core Zone will allow us to pragmatically and rapidly implement livable, safe streets in the core areas of the city. With a focus on quick, efficient implementation, according to research done by the City of Edmonton we could see up to 39% reduction in collisions on our local roadways, and reduce the severity of the collisions that do occur.
For a long time, Edmontonians discussed speed limits and speed reductions, often with intense passion or vitriol. We saw this with the city's implementation of playground zones. When the city attempted a blanket approach, pushback forced council to revert the zones in some scenarios where they didn't make sense and frustrated drivers.
At the same time, advocates for safety in the city have rightly pointed out the massive increase in survivability of collisions at 30km/h compared to 50km/h, as well as the ease and comfort of walking, cycling and playing along streets that have calmed traffic. Walking along a sidewalk directly beside a road with trucks moving at 50km/h can be a lot scarier than walking along one with traffic moving at slower, community-appropriate speeds.
Most recently, council has proposed a motion that would have a blanket approach, and apply 40km/h limits to all local, residential roadways. This would not apply to any collector or arterial roadways. This approach has several downsides.
- It doesn't help very much. 40km/h is better than 50, but we know that 30km/h is a safe speed for areas where people live and use the streets in active, shared ways.
- It doesn't apply to collector roadways, where residents tend to have the most concern about speeds.
- It doesn't address the criticism about suburban contexts. Many complain that new developments have wider roadways and are designed for higher speeds than the old, mature neighbourhood roads so a blanket solution might not be best.
- It doesn't propose any way to increase compliance other than what we've already been doing, signs and photo radar.
The solution we are proposing to these issues is the Core Zone. We would take the dense areas in the centre of the city that tend to have far more active transportation mode use like walking, cycling and using public transportation and draw a line around them. This line would be drawn along major arterial roadways so it's easy to know when you've entered and left the zone.
Within the zone, we would propose that all local residential roadways would be 30km/h and all collector roadways (roads that are designed to "collect" neighbourhood traffic and move it to an arterial road) would be 40km/h.
Arterial roadways would not change within the Core Zone.
While simply changing the speed limits does have a positive effect - we've seen that in Edmonton communities that have trialed a default 40km/h speed limit - posting signs is not enough. That's key with the Core Zone proposal.
Areas within the Core Zone tend to have narrower, mature streets, with on-street parking and trees that give drivers the sense that they should be moving slower. Where the streets might communicate a higher design speed, it is imperative that we implement quick, effective and inexpensive design solutions that are proven to naturally slow down drivers.
Speeds in the Core Zone shouldn't need to be enforced via Photo Radar. The road should communicate the safe speed to drivers leading to natural compliance. Given the limited size of the Core Zone, city administration will be more able to implement these solutions quickly and broadly in the zone - to prove that they work.
There's already precedent for this. The neighbourhood of Strathcona, which is undergoing neighbourhood renewal in the coming years has voted overwhelmingly to lower their speed limits to 30km/h and crucially, for the roadways to reflect a design speed of 30km/h. Council has already voted to approve this design speed.
These changes won't solve everything. But they're a start, something that Edmonton has not done much of since it adopted Vision Zero in 2015. The debate on speed reduction has been ongoing for several years, with council continually kicking the can to "decide later". Meanwhile, by the city's own data and projections, every time we wait we're causing material harm to residents.
Where the current council motion proposes to do nothing with residential collectors and target a 6-9% reduction in collisions on local roadways, the Core Zone would take a more ambitious approach, reducing collisions up to 39% on local roadways and 6-9% on collectors.
If you support the idea of a rapidly-implemented Core Zone, please write your city councillor and let them know.
We will be presenting our proposal to Council on April 24th.
The Core Zone is not ambitious enough, collectors should be 30km/h too!
I agree, and I hope there's a path to getting there. However, a year ago City Council directed administration to look at the different types of roadways we have in Edmonton and recommend some maximum speed limits based on how the road looks and functions. That work did not get completed and won't be completed until this September at the earliest. Unfortunately, right now collectors, even in the core, are not made equal.
This is another pragmatic decision of the Core Zone proposal. We need action now, without delay. Waiting for roadway reclassification would cause too much of a delay in implementation. The Core Zone proposal will suggest that once the reclassification work is complete, neighbourhood-context collectors with two lanes of traffic and homes on both sides should be lowered to 30km/h as well.
The Core Zone is arbitrary. It should have included community [x]
I'm glad you want safe speeds in other communities as well. This criticism is pretty fair, overall. The boundaries of the Core Zone were chosen because:
- They represent mostly-similar mature areas with similar street types and design
- They cover the areas in the city where active and public transportation have the highest proportion of use
- They are along major, easily identifiable arterial roads, which make it simple to locate the zone
- They represent areas that have shown demand for traffic calming in the past.
Other areas absolutely might be at home in the Core Zone - and I would be ecstatic if it wasn't a zone at all, but simply a safe city. Unfortunately, this comes down to politics. Many suburban councillors will not vote for a proposal that applies a blanket approach, and many wider community roadways on the edges of the city would require more costly interventions than the Core Zone is proposing. That costs money - money which absolutely should be allocated, but money which our current council has made clear won't be allocated to traffic safety in the near future.
I would be happy if council decides to expand the boundaries of the Core Zone. But, because perfect shouldn't be the enemy of good, and because we need to make forward progress, having a community clamour to be included is preferable to having communities clamour to be excluded.
This doesn't do much for safety Downtown
You're absolutely right, and that's a critical and ironic flaw of the Core Zone. The downtown core itself is almost all arterial roadways with some collectors.
This issue is a longstanding one in Edmonton and addresses a city planning question of who our downtown streets are for, people living and using them in a variety of active ways, or people driving through. The Core Zone simply can't address the scope of that problem, but thankfully some other projects like Imagine Jasper and our LRT construction are improving and increasing the livability around some of those roadways.
The Core Zone would absolutely love to make downtown streets more livable - 102 ave and 100ave which both recently had separated bike lanes installed come to mind as fantastic starting points. However, with their arterial classification, our hands are tied until the city does roadway reclassification work. In the interim, delaying the Core Zone until that reclassification is done doesn't make sense.
Yes, the Core Zone is not perfect. But it is leaps and bounds ahead of what we have now. And most importantly, it is something that is politically possible to pass, even with suburban councillors.
And that's why I will be supporting it at council on April 24th.
If you want safe, livable streets in Edmonton please contact your councillor and let them know. Speed reduction has been delayed or stopped several times because of politics, and the quickest way around political problems is to let the politicians know that this is what their constituents want.