Proposed changes to a provincial law could give Saanich the power to set its own default speed as the municipality joins a growing number of communities lobbying for safer roads.
The proposed changes would give Saanich the power to establish a default speed limit for unsigned highways within its boundaries and establish a default provincial speed limit of 30 km/h for local streets without yellow centre lines. (Municipalities could raise speed limits on local streets on a case-by-case basis by bylaw and posted signage).
Saanich Monday added its voice to these recommendations in endorsing a report from the Road Safety Law Reform Group of British Columbia, a consortium of representatives from the legal community, cycling organizations and research institutions.
“We seek to make roads safer for vulnerable road users —including pedestrians, cyclists and children — by advocating for evidence-based reforms that will modernize the province’s rules of the road in accordance with the BC government’s vision,” said the group in a June 2016 report that calls for far-reaching changes to the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act first passed in 1957.
A number of communities and organizations including the Union of British Columbia Municipalities at its recent convention in Whistler have since endorsed the 26 recommendations in the report against the backdrop of local and provincial efforts to improve road safety against the backdrop of incidents like the one that left an 11-year-old Saanich girl in a non-responsive state.
B.C., for example, is currently working “toward the ultimate goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2020” and the Road Safety Law Reform Group of British Columbia believes its plan can help the province meet that goal.
Elsewhere in the region, Victoria’s Lisa Helps is campaigning on the promise to limit speeds on low-traffic and residential streets to 30 km/h after lowering speeds on some roads to 40 km/h.
Coun. Dean Murdock praised the proposed changes and council signalled its support. Slower speed limits end up protecting all users, especially vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, whose numbers have increased significantly since the act’s introduction, Murdock said.
“The Motor Vehicle Act doesn’t really reflect the rights and responsibilities of the folks who travel outside of an automobile,” he said.
Drawing most of the attention during Monday’s discussion were two related recommendations: the first, if approved, would give municipalities the power to set a default speed limit for unsigned highways within their boundaries by bylaw and posting of signs at the municipal boundary.
Municipalities currently lack this power. If Saanich wanted to establish a municipal default speed of 30 km/h (unless posted otherwise), it would have to pass a bylaw and sign each block, a cumbersome, not to mention expensive proposition.
“The present system requires a municipality to commit substantial resources in order to adopt a municipal-wide default speed limit that differs from the provincially mandated 50 km/h,” the report notes.
The second recommendation would establish a default provincial speed limit of 30 km/h for local streets that lack a yellow center line.
Coun. Colin Plant said these changes underscore the need for greater regional cooperation, if endorsed.
“This is yet another example of how we need to harmonize our transporation network around the region, because if each municipality is given this autonomy, what a farce it would be, if it were different in every jurisdiction,” he said.
As for the efficacy of Saanich’s support for the changes, Plant was outright optimistic.
“If it adds fuel to the fire, burn baby, burn,” he said.