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U of C prof says lower speed limits not enough to ensure pedestrian safety

By Fabian Mayer, February 23 2016 —

Pedestrian safety has been in the spotlight recently as several city councillors push for new regulations to reduce the number of pedestrians hit by cars.

On average, one pedestrian is hit by a vehicle every day, according to a report by the Calgary Herald. The report showed 95 pedestrians have been killed between 2005–14.

A new pedestrian strategy for the city will go before city council in April. The strategy aims to improve pedestrian safety while making Calgary a more walkable city. One of the report’s key recommendations is to reduce residential speed limits from 50 to 40 km/h.

Francisco Alaniz Uribe has studied Calgary’s neighbourhood design for over 10 years as part of the University of Calgary’s Urban Lab research group. While he thinks lowering speed limits may be part of the solution, he believes the city could do more.

“The approach to limiting the speed shouldn’t just be signage and the policing of that signage,” Uribe said.  “It should be based on the design of the street, and this is where we run into trouble.”

Uribe said that over the past 50 years, streets have been designed with more emphasis on the car.

“We have been designing the streets wider and wider,” Uribe said. “And when you have more space you tend to speed.”

Uribe said retrofitting streets where frequent collisions occur will do more to improve safety than other proposed solutions.

“Thinking of changing the speed limit, putting some signs up and then asking the cops to give more tickets — that’s a very short-sighted approach,” he said.

Uribe was cautious when describing the potential for what he called this “bolder” approach.

“It all depends on political will and our leadership approach to these problems,” Uribe said.

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