The following letter regarding proposed speed limit reductions was sent to City Council on July 16, 2014.
Mayor and Council City of Victoria No.1 Centennial Square Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
15 July 2014
Re: Reducing Speed Limits in the City of Victoria
Dear Mayor and Council,
Having read the supporting documents, the board members of the Downtown Residents Association have provided their comments and feedback to the proposal to reduce speed limits on the arterial and neighbourhood roads identified below:
Reducing the posted speed limit from 50 kmh to 40 kmh for the following streets:
• Richmond Road between Fort Street and Crescent Road;
• Southgate Street;
• Quadra Street;
• Bay Street between Blanshard Street and Richmond Road;
• Douglas Street between Belleville Street and Dallas Road;
• Gorge Road;
• Richardson Street between Cook Street and Gonzales Avenue; and,
• Within the area of Victoria described in the Official Community Plan as the Downtown Core.
Reducing the posted speed limit from 50 kmh to 30 kmh for the following street:
• Cook Street between Southgate Street and Dallas Road.
Eight of the nine board members were present at the meeting where this was discussed. Only one board member supported exploring the proposal, seven supported the staff recommendation to maintain the current speed limits and one was absent, so could not provide feedback. The different comments and viewpoints from our board members have been included below but have been edited for the sake of brevity.
Comments of Opposition
For those seven members who are opposed to the proposed reduction in speed limits, the following comments are relevant.
We support the staff recommendation that the current speed limits are appropriate and there is no engineering/public safety data to support the proposed decrease in speed limits on these arterial and collector-designated roads. The data presented in the report very much supports this view.
The report states that, “The majority of motorists drive at a speed they consider reasonable, and safe for road, traffic, and environmental conditions. Posted limits which are set higher or lower than dictated by roadway and traffic conditions are ignored by the majority of motorists.” It also concludes that “Speed data collected on these arterial streets indicate the 85th percentile speed is in the range of 47-50 kmh, confirming the appropriateness of a 50 kmh speed limit.” Therefore it follows that since the majority of motorists are now driving at the posted speed limit, then the current speed limit must be an appropriate speed for those roads.
However, there is no evidence to back up arbitrarily reducing speed limits, especially if the solution is to just post new signage at a substantial expense. If the City is truly committed to reducing speed on these streets, investment needs to be made in infrastructure so that the environment naturally calms traffic by design. A higher police presence on the enforcement side isn’t a plausible solution either – budget implications, diversion from more important tasks, and the relationship between citizens and law enforcement are all concerns.
For example, it’s noted that the proposed bylaw change now also includes the roads “within the area of Victoria described in the Official Community Plan as the Downtown Core”. It appears that this proposal has fallen victim to scope creep, as the DRA has never been consulted or asked for feedback on the inclusion of the streets within our district. Does Douglas and portions of Blanshard really need to be 40kmh? On the one hand, they are arterial roads and should facilitate high efficiency movement of vehicles through the downtown corridor. Meanwhile, even with a 50kmh speed limit, traffic rarely ever gets to that speed (not on Douglas and certainly not on any of the smaller roads in the Core). But that’s the point, isn’t it? That by design, people drive at speeds that seem appropriate to the street conditions. So why waste money, resources and time fixing something that’s not a problem. Better to invest those same resources into redesigning our city streets, block by block, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, as part of a comprehensive citywide plan with a goal of improving the streetscape along a number of parameters and metrics.
In the absence of a comprehensive plan, an additional concern that should be addressed prior to random speed limit reductions is the possibility of negative unintended consequences on streets adjacent to those with reduced speed limits. There is a strong possibility that as the flow of traffic is tamped down on arterial and collector roads, residents and the City will be left scrambling to deal with higher traffic volumes on adjacent roads as drivers use them as cut-throughs.
Comments of Support
The comments provided by the one board member who supports the proposal are outlined below.
Although, more public consultation would have been preferable, the proposed initiative to reduce the speed limits is supportable. This is far from an ideal implementation, but it is a step in the right direction, towards a more sustainable, pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown. There can be no doubt that lower vehicle speeds reduce the likelihood of vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists, and also the severity of injuries when collisions occur. The correlation is not linear, but exponential. A further factor to consider are the environmental benefits of lower vehicle speeds, which include reduced fuel consumption as well as the encouragement of more non-vehicle modes of transportation. This is only one component of a more sustainable transportation plan for our downtown, and many other elements such as enforcement, publicity, and roadway design including calming measures and separated bike lanes, need to be addressed. However, it is a step in the right direction, and should be supported as such.
Chair Downtown Residents Association