While Calgary is looking to reduce residential speed limits, Airdrie has maintained its 30 km/h speed limits with relative success since the 1980s.
Lorne Stevens, director of community infrastructure at the City of Airdrie, said he would like to think that Airdrie has paved the way for other communities to lower their residential speed limits.
Stevens said in an interview that a lot of people will travel from community to community in the Calgary area to do business or to visit family.
“If [travelling to Airdrie] provided a spark to ask some questions from your local elected officials and if Airdrie’s name came up then that’s great,” he said.
According to Stevens, the decision to lower Airdrie’s residential speed limits to 30 km/h showed “a fair amount of wisdom by elected officials back in the day.”
Stevens has been an Airdrie resident since 1996 and has been a City of Airdrie employee since 1999, but that the 30 km/h speed limit was imposed long before his time.
In the early to mid-1980s, Airdrie adopted lower residential speed limits to accommodate a growing and vibrant young community.
The city of Airdrie took the initiative to tell the community that it “values kids and safety” by introducing several road safety initiatives, including lowering residential speed limits, said Stevens.
Airdrie is still a very young community and with a younger community you have a higher potential for young people to be on the sidewalks or crossing streets, according to Stevens.
“You definitely have a higher probability of surviving a pedestrian-vehicle collision at a lower speed,” he said.
“That’s one of the main drivers.”
According to the World Health Organization website, speed is a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, which has a major influence on both the risk of a road crash as well as the severity of injury due to a crash.
“People can stop a lot easier if they’re going 30 km/h or 40 km/h compared to 50 km/h, especially if a kid darts out between vehicles,” said Kathy Darker, a resident of Calgary since 1986.
Darker said that a lower residential speed limit might have prevented her grandson, Ethan Nielson, from being struck by a vehicle in his residential community of Cranston in 2016. Nielson had to be airlifted to hospital as a result of the accident.
Darker said that the decision to lower Calgary’s residential speed limits is an obvious one to her, because everyone goes slower in residential areas anyways, “or at least most do.”
Ainsley Goheen, an Airdrie resident and proponent of the 30 km/h residential limit, said that it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of themselves and others while driving.
You definitely have a higher probability of surviving a pedestrian-vehicle collision at a lower speed. – Lorne Stevens
“If preventing the death of a child means leaving two minutes earlier for your obligation, then that should be an easy decision for you,” said Goheen.
According to Goheen, kids don’t often remember to look both ways before crossing the road, and if a kid runs out in front of a driver’s car, the difference between 30 km/h and 50 km/h could be “the difference between life and death.”
“It can and does happen,” she said.