Pedestrian strategy project manager Andrew King said the plan seeks to reduce pedestrian fatality collisions to four by 2025. Photo by Cody Stuart/Managing Editor

Talking the walk

City’s new pedestrian strategy heads for city council

With Calgary’s push to increase the number of cyclists on city pathways and roadways garnering media attention, City Hall has now turned its attention toward those that get around on two feet rather than two wheels.

Set to go before council on May 2, the City’s new pedestrian strategy is aimed at making Calgary a “safer, more enjoyable, and easier” for pedestrians, and could see major changes to the way all Calgarians get around the city.

“We have a very strong program around transit (and) vehicles. Then we had a cycling strategy. So a similar approach is now being levelled toward pedestrians,” said project manager Andrew King. “So now we have a pedestrian strategy which really is going to focus on bringing improvements to make walking better and making conditions better for pedestrians.”

One of the key motivations behind the new strategy is to increase safety for those who choose walking as their method of transport. The plan aims to have less than four pedestrian fatality collisions by 2025, with pedestrians accounting for 15 per cent of all trips in the city.

“If we do want to change the trend, to make collisions fewer and make fatalities less, then we have to do something concrete.”

“What’s been noticed is that the trends and statistics over a 10-year period have not improved. They’ve perhaps not gotten any worse, and compared to some other cities they’re not extremely bad, but it’s one of those trends where we believe there are many preventable collisions,” said King.

“If we do want to change the trend, to make collisions fewer and make fatalities less, then we have to do something concrete.”

According to Pedestrian Down!, a Twitter account documenting the number of pedestrian/vehicle incidents in Calgary, there have already been 120 such incidents this year in Calgary through the first 117 days.

Although unaffiliated with the City of Calgary, the account uses data Tweeted by Calgary’s transportation department.

Among the most contentious items included in the strategy was a recommendation that would have reduced the speed limit to 40 kilometres per hour on roads in residential areas.

Slow Down YYC founder Jodi Morel, whose group is lobbying the City to to reduce speed limits on residential roads, said her motivation stems from a fatal collision near her southwest Calgary home.

“They determined that the accident was within the marked speed limit of 50 km/h and not something they would penalize the driver for,” said Morel. “Prior to that, I didn’t realize all the streets were 50 km/h unless otherwise posted. I assumed this narrow street, given all the issues with it, would have been slower.”

With criticisms regarding the move ranging from increased costs due to a new signage and increased staff levels to difficulty with enforcement and slower commute times for Calgary drivers, Morel said she’s had to be pragmatic in her appeal for lower speed limits.

“I’m not sure [30 km/h] would be feasible in some communities,” said Morel. “The pushback from the public was immense with 30 km/h, so I push now for the 40 km/h.”

Council has recommended a proposed change that would reduce the speed limit on all residential streets to 40 km/h unless otherwise posted be sent for further public consultation before being adopted.

Last June, Toronto adopted 30 km/h (down from the previous 40 km/h limit) on 387 kilometres of residential roads in the city, with members of council there stating the increased survivability of lower speed collisions as one of the key reasons for the change. According to a study conducted by the deputy chief coroner of Ontario, the a pedestrian struck by a vehicle travelling 50 km/h is five times more likely to die than if struck at 30 km/h.

Lower speed limits can also be seen in Airdrie, where 30 km/h limits have been the norm on residential streets since the 1980s. In 2013, Edmonton’s council adopted a speed reduction policy, which allows communities to request that speed limits in their area be reduced to 40 km/h. Of the six communities that took part in the pilot project, half kept their limit at 40 km/h while the other three reverted back to 50 km/h.

With street crossings and intersections representing the main concern among respondents during the public engagement portion of the strategy, Calgarians can expect to see more flashing light pedestrian crosswalks, missing sidewalk/pathway links to be completed and building mid-block crossings in busy areas – all part of the 50 key actions included in the strategy.

The cost for the program is expected to be $2.5 million annually with an extra $15 million from 2016 to 2018. The first changes showing up on city streets sometime in 2017.

One thought on “Talking the walk

  1. if the walking public would pay attention to what they are doing instead of head,hand,and every other electronic device that they use, there would be less accidents.

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