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Safety top priority as Council approves speed zone harmonization

Increased safety and creating one standard time for speed reduction zones are the primary reasons cited for a change coming to Lethbridge roads later this year.

Lethbridge City Council Tuesday voted unanimously in favour to approve the implementation of Harmonized School and Playground Zones – thus soon creating a single speed reduction zone with uniform year-round timing. The changes will require an amendment of Traffic Bylaw 5834.

Fabrication and installation of signs will take place from June through August for the current 28 school zones and 41 playground zones in Lethbridge.

Full implementation will start in September 2023, to coincide with the start of the 2023/24 school year.  The new 30 km/h zones – combining existing School Zones to Playground Zones to create one zone – will be effective 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the year. This will make Lethbridge consistent with municipalities in Alberta with existing Harmonized School and Playground Zones including Calgary, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Edmonton and Coaldale.

“Having a fixed end time will be easier for motorists to remember, as in-school days can vary and the current one hour after sunset varies with the season,” says Councillor Belinda Crowson. “We know the social and economic costs of traffic collisions to society are enormous, so having longer speed reduction in these zones will also increase safety by reducing severity of collisions.”

The Transportation Safety Plan (TSP) approved by City Council on June 8, 2021, recommended implementation of Harmonized School and Playground Zones. Council’s decision Tuesday was based on a recommendation from the May 4 Civic Works SPC meeting.

A study by the University of Calgary on the Harmonized School and Playground Zones in Calgary showed a reduction in average speeds from 36 km/h to 30 km/h resulted in increased compliance and a reduction in number of collisions. Additionally, the survival rate when a pedestrian is hit at 64 km/h is estimated to be 15 per cent. That improves to 95 per cent when hit at 32 km/h.

“This project will implement one of the TSP recommendations to enhance road safety and support the primary objective of reducing traffic related deaths and major injuries to zero by 2040,” says Ahmed Ali, Transportation Engineering Manager. “Excessive speeds are known be the primary cause of a significant proportion of collisions that result in serious injuries and fatalities, so this decision will promote the safety of all residents. Traffic calming is also an effective means of reducing negative impacts of traffic on the quality of life for Lethbridge residents in existing and future neighborhoods.”

The Lethbridge Police Service, the Lethbridge School Division and the Holy Spirit School Division were all engaged with and each provided Council with letters of support for harmonized zones, as did the Chinook Hospital Trauma Centre and the Southwest Alberta Road Safety Society.

Community engagement was launched at the Community Conversation held at ENMAX Centre on January 18, 2023. Community feedback was obtained in-person and online through our Get Involved Lethbridge website from January 18 to February 19. Nearly 2,000 responses were collected through multiple engagement activities. Community feedback is summarized in the What We Heard report here.

The City has started the development of an implementation plan that will utilize a variety of tools and methods to communicate zone changes to the public prior to full implementation.

Current School Zones have a 30 km/h speed limit during school days from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while current Playground Cones have a 30 km/h speed limit all days of the year from 8:30 a.m. until one hour after sunset. The current practice of School Zones does not consider that schools are regularly used outside of school hours, including evenings and weekends for extracurricular activities, clubs and sports. Many schools also have playground equipment and are used as playgrounds outside of school hours/days.

The total implementation cost of approximately $65,000 will be sourced from unspent funds from item C-16 in the 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

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