On September 7th, 2018 Mayor Lisa Helps pledged to lower speed limits on all roadways designated "local streets" in Victoria if re-elected. The thing is, we had this conversation in 2014. Here's why I said it didn't make sense then, and why it doesn't make sense today.
1) Following the original proposal to reduce speed limits, professional city staff were tasked with conducting studies and reporting their findings. In April 2014, Victoria’s Transportation Manager Brad Dellebuur presented the staff report which concluded that there was "no technical data to support the reduction in speed limits."
2) The 2014 report’s final recommendation was to maintain the existing speed limits.
3) The Institute of Traffic Engineering (ITE) has concluded that drivers set their own speed relative to the environment around them and that “posted limits which are set higher or lower than dictated by roadway and traffic conditions are ignored by the majority of motorists.”
4) Deviating from the standard 50 km/h is dangerous as ITE also found that crashes “…appear to depend less on speed and more on the variation in speeds. The likelihood of a crash occurring is significantly greater for motorists travelling at speed slower or faster than the mean speed of traffic”
5) The data collected by city workers on the arterial roads specifically in question found that 50 km/h was appropriate.
6) Simply changing the signage in an area like James Bay as a pilot project would cost ~$65,000 which is $40,000 more than the annual budget for traffic order installation in the entire city.
7) The Victoria Police Department does not support a reduction in speed limits.
8) The City’s website claims “Lowering speeds on residential roads may reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and use of fossil fuels.” While this may be true in the case of a 1965 Mustang with no catalytic converter, it is simply incorrect in this era.
Vehicle speeds being less than 50 km/h on residential streets is certainly my preference. It is also currently the case. Research shows that people drive what they determine to be a safe speed. They determine this based on factors such as weather and the environment around them. Large and/or overhanging trees as well as cars parked on the sides of the street are significant contributors to making drivers proceed more cautiously.
There will always be a segment of the population that recklessly goes 50 km/h down an intimate residential street, but as VicPD claims they will not be able to enforce said speed limit changes, nothing will continue to happen to those individuals, as is currently the case. The vast majority will continue to drive at the comfortable speed as dictated by conditions and the environment.
Things like curb extensions, pedestrian refuges and new trees are not only proven to slow traffic but will also have the added benefit of beautification. I don't want cars going 50 km/h down residential streets, but if this is identified as a real priority by Victoria residents then there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Going around putting up new signs simply isn't going to help, it may even contribute to an increase in collisions due to taking driver focus away from the roads.