Victoria’s default speed limit will be reduced to 30 km/h if an application to participate in a provincial pilot project is approved.
The city’s decision deviates from other municipalities in the region, which are anticipated to participate in a group project lowering side street speeds to 40 km/h.
Currently, the default speed limit for Victoria’s residential and local roadways is set by the province at 50 km/h. But the amended Motor Vehicle Act allows pilot projects to research and test new policies, including options for reduced default speed limits.
On Thursday, Victoria council approved a staff recommendation calling for an application to participate in the province’s Motor Vehicle Act Pilot Program. The three-year project would lower speed limits on Victoria roads without a continuous centre line, aligning with council’s approved strategic plan to get speed limits down to 30 km/h in 2021.
The project is also dependent on the approval of the 2021 financial plan.
A report from the City of Victoria’s engineering department noted reducing speed limits improves overall road safety and neighbourhood livability. The probability of death is reduced by 75 per cent when a collision between a road user and a motorist occurs at 30 km/h, compared to 50 km/h, according to the report.
Data collected by city staff showed in free-flowing traffic conditions, 84 per cent of motorists in Victoria drive at or under 38 km/h, lower than other communities in the region including Sidney and Saanich, particularly in suburban settings.
In 2019, the City of Vancouver passed a similar pilot project, reducing default speed limits for side streets to 30 km/h.
But not all local councillors were on board with the proposal. Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young and Stephen Andrew opposed the motion.
“There are a lot of places in the city where you can go across three municipalities in the space of two or three blocks,” Young said during the meeting. “I’m very leery about any initiative that varies a lot from what we see in other municipalities.”
“My casual observation is that [30 km/h] is difficult to enforce, even in school zones,” he added. “I am concerned if we adopted this, that in fact, we would have fairly universal breaking of the speed limit.”
Coun. Sarah Potts supported the motion, pointing to studies indicating increased safety in areas with lower speed limits.
“This is something that is known to save lives and I think that should be our highest concern.”
The motion is approved pending the approval of the 2021 budget.
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