Lower speed limits in school and playground zones?

The City of Swift Current wants to increase safety in school and playground zones by reducing vehicle speeds in these areas to 30 kilometres per hour.

Councillors approved a notice of motion at a regular council meeting on July 15 to advise the public of their intention to amend the traffic bylaw for school and active playground zones.

According to Mitch Minken, the City’s general manager of infrastructure and operations, the motivation for the proposed bylaw change is straightforward.

“That’s child safety,” he said after the meeting. “It’s plain and simple. It’s all about safety. Statistics that we have show that the rate of injury is reduced substantially by making the move from 40 to 30 kilometres per hour.”

The proposed amendments are a result of an administrative review of the traffic bylaw with assistance from the City’s traffic consultant WSP during the past two years.

“We’ve had the Chinook School Division talk to us, the RCMP talked to us, and then we engaged our traffic consultant WSP to help us work through the issue,” he said. “Everything is pointing to that this is the right thing to do. As we talked about, a lot of other communities have come to the same conclusion. It’s the same studies that are leading us to this that this is the right thing to do.”

The 10 kilometres per hour reduction in vehicle speed will be the main change to the school and active playground zones bylaw, but there will also be some other housekeeping amendments.

The 30 kilometres per hour speed limit in school and playground zones will be enforced between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for seven days per week, and vehicles will not be allowed to make U-turns in these zones. If approved by council, the amended bylaw will go into effect before the start of the new school year in the fall.

“The enforcement part obviously will be done by the RCMP here in Swift Current,” he said. “The RCMP have been part of this, so I can’t really speak for them as to where they’re going to go, but the new bylaw will have updated offences and fines built into it.”

The City is ensuring there are end-of-zone signs at all the school and playground zones in preparation for the proposed bylaw changes.

“We need to have a start-of-zone and an end-of-zone, and in a few cases we didn’t have those end-of-zone signs to signal drivers that it’s OK to go back to the regular 50 kilometres per hour,” he explained. “As we’re changing all these signs, we’re making sure that all the signage is correct and appropriate.”

Councillors expressed support for the proposed bylaw change during the meeting. Councillor Ryan Plewis, who represents council on the police consultative committee, said the group discussed this issue at their last meeting and was hoping to see this happen.

Councillor Ron Toles felt the lower speed limit should also be applied to the sections of South Railway Street East and 6th Avenue SE along Riverside Park due to heavy pedestrian traffic, especially during various events in the park.

Mayor Denis Perrault requested City administration to take this enquiry from Councillor Toles back to the traffic consultants for consideration and a response.

Minken provided some clarification after the meeting with regard to areas such as Riverside Park.

“The zones were decided previously and this is one that we’ll take under consideration again,” he said. “Typically, places where fences are placed to restrict access for kids, as they’re around those zones, those streets aren’t included in the zone.”

The City is also taking a look at improved ways to alert motorists when pedestrians are using major crosswalks.

“If warranted, we’ll be looking at the rapid reflective beacons to signal drivers that there’s someone in the crosswalk,” he said. “So they can press the button and the flashing lights go so that drivers are aware that there’s someone in the crosswalk.”

The notice of motion by council provides Swift Current residents with an opportunity to provide input on the proposed bylaw changes. Anyone who wants to speak in favour of or against the proposed amendments at an upcoming council meeting can contact City Clerk Jackie Schlamp by telephone at 306-778-2723 or by sending an e-mail to j.schlamp@swiftcurrent.ca

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