Victoria council votes to reduce speed limit to 30 km/h on residential streets

Victoria council votes to reduce speed limit to 30 km/h on residential streets
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Victoria council has decided to slow things down on city streets.

On Thursday, Victoria city councillors voted in favour of reducing the default speed limit on residential streets from 50 km/h to 30 km/h during a committee of the whole meeting.

The move, which still technically requires final approval, would not apply to major arterial roads like Douglas Street, Bay Street and Blanshard Street would remain unchanged. Downtown streets would be exempt and roads with speed limits below 30 km/h would also remain unchanged, a staff report dated June 23 notes. To see a full list of streets with speed limits that would not be changing, click here.

According to the staff report, streets with lower speed limits help improve “comfort” for pedestrians and cyclists and decrease noise levels. The report — likely citing a 2018 World Health Organization study on pedestrian safety and vehicle speeds — also said that when a pedestrian or “vulnerable road” is struck by a vehicle travelling 30 km/h, there is only a 10 per cent probability of death.

“Reducing speed limits supports road safety and neighbourhood livability,” reads the report.

The 2018 WHO study found the chances of surviving a collision with a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h is less than 20 per cent. However, that number increases to 50 per cent, if the vehicle is travelling at 40 or 45 km/h. If the vehicle is travelling at 30 km/h, a person’s survival rate, the study found, is 90 per cent.

There has been a recent shift towards lower speed limits in residential neighbourhoods across Canada and the United States.

Last year, the District of Saanich dropped the speed limit from 40 km/h to 30 km/h on roads without a centre line as part of a regional pilot project with Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt that was later paused by the provincial government. Other municipalities, including Courtenay, have begun moving forward with their own speed reduction pilot projects on residential streets.

Elsewhere, Waterloo, Ont., recently reduced its residential speed limits to 30 km/h while Hoboken, N.J., near New York City, has also moved towards dropping its speed limit to 20 miles per hour (roughly 30 km/h) on local roads.

Furthermore, a recent online poll conducted by Research Co, found that 66 per cent of participants from British Columbia said they were in favour of reducing speed limits to 30 km/h in residential neighbourhoods.

RELATED: Saanich council unanimously approves motion lowering speed limit to 30 km/h on residential roads

During Thursday’s meeting, Coun. Geoff Young expressed concerns about enforcing a lower speed limit on local streets without proper signage and questioned how people would even know if they were driving in an area that is 30 km/h. He also felt the idea of reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h is going too far and wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

“This is going to be one of those empty gestures where we talk about how progressive we are but in fact, the impact on vehicle speeds in the city is going to be tiny,” he said.

However, Mayor Lisa Helps said reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h is all about public safety and livability, noting that other municipalities are either moving towards or have already lowered their street speed limits.

“I think this is very supportable. I think we are not out alone, we are with all of our neighbours and it is good to see our colleagues in other municipalities and their staff working hard to achieve vision zero,” she said, later adding. “This is really about livability and public safety and I think it is important.”

Coun. Stephen Andrew said on some streets such as Gorge Road where the speed limit is lower than 50 km/h, vehicles are still well above the posted speed limit and questioned how effective enforcement would be.

“Even with the signs, when people zip by they are going 55 and 60 even BC Transit buses and the argument I would have is where is the enforcement? If we have dropped the speed to that level, I am not sure that we are protecting the residents in that area and pedestrians in the area,” he said. “If they can’t manage to enforce speed limits at 40, how are we going to get them to do it at 30?”

In the end, council voted 6-3 in favour with councillors Andrew, Young and Charlayne Thornton-Joe opposed.

Victoria city staff are now expected to draft a bylaw, which would then need to be approved by councillors. The speed limits wouldn’t be enforced until that happens and after the new signage is installed.

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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