Speed limit could drop to 40 km/h in three-year side-roads test

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says he has enlisted 10 other capital region municipalities to take part in a pilot project to reduce the speed limit to 40 km/h from 50 km/h on all residential roads.

He expects the municipalities to apply to the province in the fall to run the project for three years.

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Haynes, who first pitched the idea to his fellow mayors in March, said reduced speeds will help fight climate change by making side roads safer and encouraging more people to get out of their cars and walk or cycle.

“There’s also an awareness that car accidents at high speeds have a greater impact on the individuals involved — the damages and the injuries to people,” he said.

“ICBC itself would benefit by having reduced accidents and reduced severity of accidents. So from climate change … through to impacts on our emergency hospital services, there are just benefits all around.”

Haynes said details of the application still need to be worked out, since there’s a “patchwork” across the region at present with some municipalities already embracing lower speeds on residential streets.

The idea is to take a uniform approach across the region which will assist with enforcement if all the municipalities have the same speeds unless otherwise posted, he said.

“I think we all understand as elected officials — all the mayors and councillors and our staff — that public safety on the roads is number one, and this is something that we can do together.”

Saanich council initially wrote to Premier John Horgan last year to request a review of the default speed limits in the Motor Vehicle Act.

But Transportation Minister Claire Trevena replied that amending speed limits in the law would be a significant policy shift affecting all road users.

Instead, she pointed to a recent Motor Vehicle Act amendment that allows for pilot projects and indicated that her ministry was willing to work with interested municipalities..

In a statement this week, Trevena’s ministry said the first round of pilot projects will focus on new modes of transportation such as e-scooters.

“The second phase will have a broader focus — where communities can submit proposals for pilot projects — including those focused on speed limit,” the statement said. “This second phase is expected to get under way this fall.”

Victoria and Oak Bay have confirmed that they are among the municipalities interested in participating in the project.

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said widespread regional support for the idea suggests that many people are driving 35 km/h to 40 km/h on most residential streets anyway.

“This really is, to my mind, a reflection of reality that most of our streets are already operating at this level,” he said, adding that the pilot project will serve as a reminder for people to slow down on side streets.

“People are signing on, I’m guessing, because it makes sense,” he said. “It actually reflects the engineering reality of our streets, and it’s easier to sign a few main roads than it is trying to re-sign every small side road, which would be, from a sheer volume perspective, much more expensive and difficult to do.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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