There are few symbols of Calgary privilege like the playground zone on Elbow Drive. For those not fortunate enough to creep at 30 kilometres along this major thoroughfare into downtown, the playground zone is 630 metres. Yes, it’s the longest in the city — and it’s well speed trapped.
There’s no proof this preposterous Elbow Drive zone protects anyone, but must give affluent residents some feeling of control. It gives us a reminder — they’re in first class, we’re in coach. I’m all for reduced speeds on residential roads, but if you live on a major artery, 50 kilometres seems fair, the way it is on all residential roads in the city.
The next two longest playground zones are at Midpark Boulevard and Midpark Green SE at 568 metres, and then Canyon Meadows Drive SW at 300 metres.
The city is going to spend the summer looking at combining playground zones and school zones. Both require vehicles slow to 30 kilometres, but at different times. That’s confusing to drivers. There are 876 playground zones beginning at 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset. And there are 716 school zones begin at separate times.
Playground zones are often used to bring some civility to traffic whipping through neighbourhoods. When the city converted a playground zone at 26th Avenue and 20th Street to a playground area (with a sign, but no speed restrictions) residents lobbied to have it converted back this year.
There are no statistics collected about people hit, or not hit, in playground zones, so no way to evaluate their effectiveness.
Others complain few kids are ever seen in the playground areas — so what’s the point of slowing down? As the city follows the provincial lead to unify 30-kilometre zones, it needs to take aim at long playground zones. City officials feel the pressure of communities, but I’m assured, they will also respond to 3-1-1 requests about the misuse of playground zones for traffic calming — and that Elbow Drive zone that’s an affront to common sense.
In the end, the problem is fuelled by standard 50-kilometre speed zone, with speed creep to 60 kilometres. A 40-kilometre speed limit makes the best sense. On Elbow Drive, we can live with that.