Reduced Speed School Zones Not More Safe: Study

Recommendation:

That the June 15, 2005, Edmonton Transportation and Streets Department report 2005TS9531 be received for information.

June 15, 2005, Transportation and Streets Department report from Edmonton Alberta regarding School Zones

Report Summary

This report provides information regarding a review of the City’s current practice regarding school zones.

Previous Committee Action

  • At the June 28, 2005, Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting, the following motion was passed:

            That the June 15, 2005, Transportation and Streets Department report 2005TS9531 be postponed to the September 20, 2005, Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting, at 1:30 p.m., in Council Chamber, and that Administration provide notification to school boards, school parent councils, community leagues and the general public to allow for presentations to be made.

  • At the April 26, 2005, Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting, the following motion was passed:

That Administration undertake an assessment of the City’s current practice regarding school zones, the objective being dialogue between key stakeholders, i.e. Administration, Police, and School Boards, and that the report return to the Transportation and Public Works Committee in September 2005.

Report

History and Current Practice

  • School zones, which operate at a
    30 km/h reduced speed limit, have not been used in the city of Edmonton since the early 1970s.  They were removed because motorists did not adhere to the lower speed limit.  Instead, they provided children and parents with a false sense of security.
  • Pedestrian protection is provided through pedestrian signals, amber flashers and marked crosswalks.  These devices are placed at locations where they are justified by pedestrian and traffic volume.  As they are not limited to school areas, such devices provide safe pedestrian access for children travelling to and from school, not just at the location of the school.
  • Within the city, School Area signs are installed upstream of a school to warn drivers that they are approaching an area of high pedestrian activity.  Traffic cones and pedestrian silhouettes are used to further highlight pedestrian crossing locations.
  • The Transportation and Streets Department works with other agencies, including the Edmonton Police Service, the Alberta Motor Association, and parent volunteers to improve driver behaviour in the school areas and teach children safe roadway crossing procedures.  Programs include the Parent Parking Patrol; the School Crossing Patrol; the Point, Pause and Proceed method; the Radar Speed Display program; and the Pedestrian Safety Campaign.

The Transportation and Streets Department regularly conducts safety 

  • reviews of school areas.  The main traffic concerns during school drop-off and pick-up times are congestion, improper turns, and failing to yield to pedestrians.  Speed is generally not a major issue.
  • The Transportation and Streets Department initiated a pilot project in May 1996, to test the effectiveness of school zones and determine if the current practice was appropriate.  Speed surveys at these test zones showed that the majority of motorists adhere to a 50 km/h speed limit.  However, very few motorists comply with a 30 km/h speed limit.  The average speed in the trial school zones dropped by only 2 km/h to 3 km/h.
  • The Transportation and Streets Department maintains a school drop-off construction program to address the pick-up and drop-off activities at existing Edmonton Schools.  The City cost shares the construction of a school drop-off facility with EdmontonPublic Schools and EdmontonCatholicSchools each alternating year.  Drop-off facilities are retrofitted at existing schools to accommodate the pickup and drop-off activities at a school site.
  • Presently, under Edmonton Zoning Bylaw 12800, the provision for on-site pickup and drop-off spaces is required as part of the construction for public and private elementary, junior high and high schools.

 Pedestrian Collision Summary

As illustrated in Attachment 4:

Between 2000 and 2003, there were 1,017 pedestrian collisions in the city of 

  • Edmonton.  Of these collisions, 64 involved elementary-aged children and 101 involved junior high-aged children.
  • Of the 64 elementary-aged pedestrian collisions, 25 occurred during the time that school zones would be in effect. Only five of these collisions occurred in potential school zone locations during these hours.
  • Of the 101 junior high-aged pedestrian collisions, 55 occurred during the time that school zones would be in effect.  Only nine of these collisions occurred in potential school zone locations during these hours.
  • The pedestrian collision review indicates that a small proportion of pedestrian collisions involving school children occur during school zone hours in potential school zones.

Comparison with Other Municipalities

  • The city of Calgary has school zones with reduced speed limits at most elementary and junior high schools, and is currently reviewing the possibility of removing school zones.
  • In the city of Calgary, there have been 5.67 collisions per 10,000 population of elementary-aged children between 2000 and 2003.  In the city of Edmonton, there have been 4.82 collisions per 10,000 population of elementary-aged children during this period.
  • In the city of Calgary, there have been 9.10 collisions per 10,000 population of junior high-aged children between 2000 and 2003.  In the city of Edmonton, there have been 9.70 collisions per 10,000 population of junior high-aged children during this period.
    • This comparison indicates that the presence of school zones with reduced speed limits does not translate into lower pedestrian collision rates.
    • The City of Saskatoon implemented school zones with 30 km/h speed limits in 2002.  A comprehensive “before and after” study indicated that the 85th percentile speed reduced from 55 km/h to 45 km/h.  However, only 23 percent of motorists complied with the 30 km/h speed limit.  This has caused concerns that the 30 km/h results in a false sense of security and increased speed variation.

    Stakeholder Input

    • The Edmonton Police Service indicates that the vast majority of violations in school areas are parking violations and failing to yield to pedestrians.  The Edmonton Police Service cannot support establishing these school zones as they are not in a position to adequately enforce them (Attachment 1.)
    • The Edmonton Public School Board indicates that although the existing partnerships are working well to continually improve pedestrian safety at schools, many parents have shown interest in 30 km/h school zones (Attachment 2.)
    The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) has researched the subject of school zones and found that there is no conclusive evidence that school zones result in crash reductions, although they may provide an increased perception of safety in the community.  The AMA believes that school safety is achieved through site specific technical 
    • assessments and measures, and encourages the City of Edmonton to continue to monitor school locations and take appropriate action (Attachment 3.)
    • The EdmontonCatholicSchool board did not respond to our requests for input.

    Conclusions

    • Collision data indicates that a very small percentage of pedestrian collision involving school-age children take place in the areas and time periods of school zones.
    • Speed surveys and experience indicate that motorists do not adhere to reduced speed limits in school zones and the main problem at schools is congestion and not speeding.
    • Existing programs have had good success in addressing pedestrian safety at schools and have been adopted by other municipalities following Edmonton’s lead.
    • Based on our review and input from affected groups, the Transportation and Streets Department does not support re-implementing school zones with reduced speed limits.

    Background Information Attached

    1. Letter from the Edmonton Police Service
    2. Letter from the Edmonton Public School Board
    3. Letter from the Alberta Motor Association
    4. Graphical Summary of Pedestrian Collision Data

 


 

 

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