After a weekend where three serious crashes occurred on the South Island — one fatal, the other two with serious injuries — Victoria’s committee of the whole is moving ahead with advocating for more red light and speed cameras.
Currently, there is one red light camera in Victoria and no speed cameras, and two councillors put forward a motion asking the province to install the cameras at all intersections where more than 20 casualty crashes occurred between 2018 and 2022. ICBC defines casualty crashes as crashes where a person was injured or killed.
“We had more than 4,000 casualty crashes just in the City of Victoria in the last five years, that’s injury or crashes, the property damage crashes are much higher, of course, so that amounts to about two or three a day,” said Coun. Dave Thompson introducing the motion in COTW.
“We, the city, adopted Vision Zero in Go Victoria, specifically with a goal to reach and maintain zero annual traffic fatalities and injuries. Currently, we’re very far from that goal,” he said.
If the province does not install the red light and speed cameras, the motion calls for Victoria to ask that it allow municipalities to pay for and install the cameras themselves, and will write letters to other South Island municipalities asking their councils to write similar letters.
Coun. Marg Gardner argued, before ultimately voting in favour of the motion, that the city has done enough towards reducing the number of vehicle collisions, but is not doing enough when it comes to crime reduction.
“Anecdotally, my personal observations, the changes in Victoria’s crosswalks over [the] past few years have placed our city ahead of some of our neighboring municipalities. I believe that our staff is leading the way towards Vision Zero,” Gardner said.
“The budget survey and many emails we receive [say] the violence on our streets is a top priority for our citizens and downtown… As councillors, we must tackle the growing problem of street crime, violence and social disorder. This takes precedence over cameras.”
Gardner’s comments came shortly after Victoria Police Chief Del Manak made a presentation to council, part of which showed that calls for service in Victoria have mostly remained steady over the past five quarters, and calls for violence are down from a high of 785 in Q3 of 2022 to 690 in Q2 of 2023.
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Coun. Stephen Hammond then tried to introduce an amendment to the motion, which was ruled out of order, to also ask the province to install security cameras at areas with higher incidences of crime.
“It only makes sense with what we heard from the police chief this morning that if we’re talking about safety, then it must be a vital importance that we talk about all issues of safety and because it’s in cameras, talking about cameras, I believe this brings it within that realm,” Hammon said.
Mayor Marianne Alto ruled the amendment out of order, saying that the motion was talking about road safety, which would mean the amendment was on a completely separate topic.
“My interpretation of the intent and the fact of the original motion is that it deals with safety across end intersections with regard to vehicular traffic. And while I appreciate that this also deals with safety, it’s a completely separate issue,” Alto said.
Hammond then introduced a second amendment, to include wording that the red light and speed cameras are designed to catch improper behaviour by vehicles and cyclists. The amendment to add cyclists was eventually struck down, as it was noted that under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, bicycles are included in the definition of vehicles, so the amendment would be needlessly singling them out.
“When I was a kid, you had to have a licence on a bicycle, and while it’s not here, I would be encouraging us to at least consider, I want us to at least consider going down the road of getting licences for bicycles again,” he said.
“This isn’t about us just having nice little bicycles anymore, we are urging people, and I am urging people, to use this as a form of transportation and with that comes responsibilities.”
Studies have shown that bicycle licence programs don’t typically make sense for a number of reasons. The City of Toronto used to have a bicycle licence program which ended in 1957, and the city maintains a web page with information about why the system did not work, including that children ride bicycles so “it often results in an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age; they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between police officers and children,” then-Mayor Nathan Phillips said when it was repealed.
Bicycle licence programs also prove to cost more to administer than they generate revenues, and create issues when cyclists cross municipal boundaries from an area which does not require licensing into one that does.