Victoria will hire two staff members this year and earmark about $250,000 to expedite neighbourhood traffic calming.
“This is something that our residents — whether they’re elderly or young or parents — everybody is concerned about this,” Mayor Lisa Helps said.
Helps said she wants the new hires to be focused on “walking the streets of neighbourhoods, listening to citizens, coming back and coming up with designs and implementing [traffic calming].”
Victoria councillors Wednesday gave unanimous approval for the new positions to facilitate neighbourhood traffic calming.
In an interview, Helps said it was a shock for councillors to hear from consultants a couple of weeks ago that one person per week in Victoria is hit by a car.
“That was a real wake-up in addition to the hundreds, if not thousands, of emails we’ve received from people over the past term, a lot from parent advisory councils, from parents, from seniors, saying we need to take a different approach to traffic in our neighbourhoods.”
She said motorists are regularly speeding, running stop signs and not paying enough attention at crosswalks.
“We can put up all the speed-limit signs we want, but really, what’s required is interventions in the streetscape that will actually make cars slow down,” she said.
One of Helps’s campaign planks in the October election was to reduce speed limits to 30 km/h on residential streets. Staff estimate costs of that initiative, largely related to signs, will be in the neighbourhood of $200,000.
But that idea might be delayed until 2021.
In the interim, the new hires are expected to promote traffic-calming initiatives.
Helps said neighbourhood traffic calming was ranked high by residents participating in strategic planning and budget exercises. But senior staff said they need more people and money to tackle the issue.
Helps urged council colleagues to support the additional hiring, saying the move is key “to having a safe and sustainable city.”
She noted council has only approved hiring two additional staff so far in its budget deliberations. “If we’re going to add two more, there couldn’t be [a] more important [reason] than actually getting neighbourhoods safer and using new staff resources to have community-driven ideas actually come to life rather than having our engineering staff have to do it off the side of their desks.”
Councillors agreed to allocate $250,000 to the building and infrastructure reserve to be earmarked for use on traffic calming.
Traffic-calming measures could include traffic diverters, road closings, curbs, curb extensions (“bulb-outs”), gutters, sidewalks and speed humps, director of engineering Fraser Work said.