Déjà vu: Speed Limits Again

On September 7th, 2018 Mayor Lisa Helps pledged to lower speed limits on all roadways designated "local streets" in Victoria if re-elected. If we're going to be talking about speed limits again, it's time to re-post two pieces I wrote in 2014 on the same issue.

July 16th, 2014

Tomorrow the Victoria City Council is holding a public hearing on their grand plan to reduce speed limits in Victoria. The scheme calls for amending the Streets & Traffic Bylaw to lower the speed limit in the downtown core as well as several main arterial roads from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. It would also reduce the Cook Street Village area between Dallas & Southgate where I live to 30 km/h. This is problematic and unwarranted for several reasons:

1) Following the original proposal to reduce speed limits, professional city staff were tasked with conducting studies and reporting their findings. In April, Victoria’s Transportation Manager Brad Dellebuur presented the staff report which concluded that “…there is 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.

Despite all of the above, Victoria City Council seems intent on pushing ahead with a reduction in the speed limits, ignoring the science, the professional staff, the police department, and common sense.

If you are available on Thursday July 17th for the 7:00pm City Council meeting,I urge you to attend and have your voice heard.

We cannot stand for a council that ignores the facts.

 

September 8th, 2014

Speeding “hasn’t been an issue” in Victoria. That’s what Mayor Dean Fortin admitted in August, as he tried to defend the expenditure of nearly $90,000 of our money, to combat a problem that doesn’t exist.

As I detailed back in July, several months ago the paid professionals of our city staff concluded that there was “no technical data to support the reduction in speed limits.” Council decided to ignore the facts in spite of the scientific evidence, opposition from the Victoria Police Department, the recommendations of their employed experts, and overall common sense. While a majority of those members of the public who spoke at the July 17th council meeting appeared to be in favour of lowering speed limits, the amount of correspondence received by City Hall in opposition to the reduction far outweighed the proponents. Apparently the current council finds it far easier to ignore a stack of letters and emails than a few out-spoken advocates in council chambers, and this is precisely the problem. While some had expressed hesitance or opposition to the proposal beforehand, they all caved and voted in favour during the session. In short, the “City Hall Bubble” got to them.

Those who wrote to City Hall in great numbers were the average citizens, caught off guard by the likelihood that a backwards policy flying in the face of all evidence was going to pass in our municipality. These were Victorians with families and friends to be with on a beautiful summer evening, not sweating in the humid council chambers that particular Thursday night. It’s not council’s fault that three hour long July committee meetings are not particularly engaging to the general public. However, it is their fault when they fail to realize that those who do attend are not representative of your average Victorian. With most of our current council having served multiple terms, it is easy to see how the “City Hall Bubble” had them thinking that the majority of citizens are in favour of a reduction in speed limits. After all, they need only consider the many passionate complaints voiced at that very meeting to see there is general dissatisfaction, right? As any pollster worth his or her salt will tell you, those who regularly attend committee meetings are not a representative sample of the populace. Yet, our council seems to have forgotten this basic fact. Politics, not ignorance, is why they unanimously supported the motion over the facts. They believed that with such great support in the chamber right in front of them, going against it could cost them their jobs in the upcoming November election.

Fast-forward to mid-August and it became obvious that their political calculations had failed. Your average Victorian was unhappy with the decision and even more unhappy that it was going to cost $90,000 of their tax dollars to implement. Further boggling the mind was the nearly $10,000 designated for an information campaign, as if we would fail to comprehend what any of the 295 newly posted speed limit signs truly mean. However, it would appear that after weeks of complaints, council finally blinked last Thursday. They opted to drastically reduce the number of signs posted in the downtown core, far from the number necessary for proper implementation and enforcement of their policy, in order to save money.

Finally the truth was out, but they’re proceeding anyhow, albeit with significantly fewer signs posted because, to our current council, admitting they were wrong and being labelled “flip-floppers” is apparently far worse than wasting taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, we have massive cost overruns on the Johnson Street Bridge and several inevitable major infrastructure projects on the near horizon that are going to put a significant dent in municipal finances. Victoria City Council needs to readjust its priorities and take on the big issues facing our city for the sake of the entire population, rather than micro-managing and dealing with minor trivialities for the sake of those within the City Hall Bubble. Those diligent committee meeting attendees don’t represent us citizens, and neither will Council if they continue putting politics above what’s practical.