Speeding not an issue in downtown core, says city

City administration presented a speed study of the downtown area along 100 Ave. to the Operational Services Committee on Nov. 22.

The study was initiated after a downtown business owner Beeta Bator brought her concerns of witnessing near misses of pedestrians crossing at the mid-block crosswalks to council on July 11; speed was considered to be one of the factors affecting pedestrian safety.

Bator, owner of Eternity Fine Jewellery & Heirlooms, told Town & Country News in July she was skeptical the speed study would change anything for pedestrians, and the funds were better spent investing in flashing beacons at the crosswalks.

“The mean vehicle speed that we recorded was less than 39 km/h, and the 85 percentile speed was less than 45 km/h,” said Robin Hutchinson, city traffic engineer supervisor.

The 85 percentile is how engineers determine if excessive speed is a concern for a road and if additional speed enforcement or traffic calming measures are needed. Since the 85 percentile was lower than the speed limit of 100 Ave, city administration believes no measures were required in the area.

The Operational Services Committee agreed to vote to accept the report for information.

The study found that less than five per cent of vehicles along 100 Ave in the downtown core were travelling above the posted speed limit of 50 km/h.

Hutchinson noted to the committee if they were to lower speed limits, it may come with benefits and drawbacks.

“Lower speed would certainly make the roads safer, it would reduce the frequency and severity of road traffic injuries, (and) it may also encourage further pedestrian activity in the downtown area,” he said.

“However, when traffic speeds are lower, we tend to see a rise in vehicle emissions, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, so we would see increased greenhouse gases within the downtown core.”

The concern of pedestrian safety in the city’s downtown core was brought up initially by Wendy Bosch, Downtown Association executive director and city councillor.

“On more than one occasion, there has been witnessed near-misses with pedestrians crossing in front of Bama Furniture,” said Bosch in a letter to the Infrastructure and Economic Development Committee on June 7.

The committee then directed city administration to return with a funding source for flashing beacon lights in the downtown core at the mid-block crosswalks.

City administration returned on July 5 to the committee with a recommendation of not moving forward with the project as other areas were a higher priority and the downtown crosswalks were meeting engineering standards as is. The committee accepted the report for information.

Hutchingson pushed the same sentiments on Nov. 22, noting crosswalks near schools should be prioritized.

“One of the benefits of the downtown is that the crossing distances are considerably reduced, they're about eight meters crossing distance, traffic is only coming in one direction, we have the current build-outs so the sight lines to oncoming vehicles,” he said.

“In conclusion, I would say that the crossing standards in the downtown area are much higher than in many other locations.”

“Given the choice, I would prefer to prioritize higher priority locations.”

Coun. Bosch asked if a pedestrian survey had been completed at the downtown crosswalks.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News