June 16, 2021

British Columbia Residents Want Slower Streets but Provincial Government Doesn’t Respond


I feel like I have been writing forever about the impact that 30 km/h road speeds make in neighourhoods. There are so many examples in Europe where 30 km/h road speeds have been adopted and remarkably changed the serious injury and fatality rate, and made roads more comfortable and crossable by people walking, rolling and biking, besides lowering carbon emissions.

In Edinburgh, lowering road speeds to 30 km/h resulted in a 300 percent increase in biking and a a 25 percent reduction of  cyclist and pedestrian injury rates in the first year of the reduced road speed. It was so successful that Edinburgh is expanding their 30 km/h areas.

In British Columbia, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) unanimously passed a motion years ago to have the Province give the municipalities the right to lower road speed in neighbourhoods without the installation of costly signage on each street. There’s been no response from the Province, which is odd when you consider lowering road speed contributes directly to the ability of citizens to survive a crash, and increases physical exercise, lowering potential hospitalizations and health costs.

Mario Canseco’s Research.co  latest poll shows that there is public support for slower speeds in neighbourhoods, with 61 percent of respondents saying they would ” “definitely” or “probably” like to see the speed limit reduced to 30 km/h on all residential streets in their municipality, while keeping the speed limit on arterial and collector roads at 50 km/h.”

What is particularly interesting is that this survey showed a 3 percent increase in support for slower speeds since the last survey conducted in pre pandemic 2019.

It is also interesting who wants slower speeds: it’s the young and the older. As Mr. Canseco states the  ” “Majorities of residents aged 18-to-34 (62%) and aged 55 and over (57%) share the same view.”

There has also been a pilot program in Vancouver testing the 30 km/h limits, which commenced with a demonstration project in the Grandview-Woodland area. Residents in the province by a two-thirds margin see this pilot program as being a “very good” or “good idea”.

The truth is that the 50 km/h speed default can be too fast on many residential streets, and that came through in the survey, when nearly 40 percent said they saw vehicles moving faster than the posted limit daily. Forty-five percent of  Fraser Valley residents said they saw cars speeding on their street daily, while 37 percent of Metro Vancouver residents said the same.

Mr. Canseco’s latest survey shows that residents in this province are ready and want slower 30 km/h speeds in their neighbourhoods. What is it going to take to get the Province to deal with this and sign off on allowing municipalities to have slower residential speeds?



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  1. There have been several motions by the UBCM over the years and all have been ignored by the province. I don’t get why the resistance. The sense I get is the the government thinks it is a voter loser. It is basically an administrative change and empowers municipalities to make changes only if they so desire. It doesn’t force municipality to do anything if they don’t want to. Yet, the province claims to support Vision Zero. If they truly believe in Vision Zero, then they need to implement this change. It is an easy first step.

    The current requirements to sign basically every access point is onerous and expensive. We know that lower speeds are safer. BC needs to get this done.

    1. You’re being too rational. Consider the irrational. The Ministry is still run by engineers-of-a-certain-age with strong pro-car biases. They give lip service to safety and all this “pedestrian stuff” but their mission is to push as much tin as quickly as possible around the province. This is unquestionably good for all civilization because cars make us prosperous. The faster they go, the more prosperous we are. Entertaining this type of legislation would lead to slower roads, chaos, societal penury, and death. It’s unthinkable. When viewed from this perspective, the Ministry’s opposition makes perfect sense.

      1. Your prescient comment is right on. I am a retired engineer who like Socrates believes in rational law, reason and ethics. He believed that the gods, like Hermes, would never be there for him when traveling or crossing the road. But to give you some hope my current discussions with MoTI to provide safe access for pedestrians and cyclists has been very positive and far more open to new ideas than my generation of engineers were.

      2. Well, as a retired engineer perhaps that is my Achilles heel. But should we not base law and policy on rationality and ethics. Socrates based his teachings on rationality and ethics. Sadly the outcome wasn’t pleasant but he didn’t rely on any Gods, such as Hermes, to travel on the roads and keep him safe. Just potholes, the equivalent of speed humps. My point is that a rational speed limit should be based on what is reasonable to enforce and what is a speed that drivers feel safe. Usually this speed is determined by data.

  2. The notion that the city default should be 30kph unless posted otherwise is a very laudible goal. It might be reasonable to allow arterial to remain at 50kph but what I don’t know is if more vehicle/ pedestrian collisions occur on arterial compared with neighbourhood streets. If so there could be a strong argument for arterial speeds to be covered by the 30kph default as well. But it will be a strong argument. Even Translink bus service would be affected.

    1. In Montreal, they’ve lowered speed limits on many arterial streets as well. It would be interesting see what the impact on transit was.

  3. Municipalities can, on their own initiative lower speed limits neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The problem appears to be the cost of resignage. ICBC has a stake in this and could provide additional funds as they have for intersection and other improvements when there is a cost benefit.

    1. Why not just get the province to makes this administrative change and save us all a lot of tax or ICBC dollars?

  4. My understanding is that the Federal government has granted certain law-making rights to the provinces. Municipalities must follow those laws. In the case of the Highway Act, the province has set the speed limit in town at 50kph excepting school streets and more recently bike routes. Vancouver adopts those speed limits as a by law which is upheld in the courts-if it complies with Provincial legislation. ICBC can not make or change laws.

    1. It is basically our constitution that grants powers to the provinces. It is only school and playground zones that have lower limits by default. There is no exception for bike routes, hence the large number of 30 km/h signs on bike routes. This is why the province needs to empower municipalities to set their own lower limits, if they so choose. It is a simple administrative change. Nobody here (so far) is suggesting that ICBC can make or change laws. What they can and sometimes do is fund changes that improve safety and save ICBC money. Lower speed limits in some cases could fall into this.

      1. Well…..I am totally in agreement with the desired outcome. Lower speeds will reduce accident probability and severity the fact remains that the speed limit has to be practical and enforceable. Only elected lawmakers ( politicians) can only make laws, they can’t delegate that responsibility to other unaccountable groups. Maybe there is a municipality on Hwy 1 that would like a 20kph speed limit through town. How likely is that to be respected by freight trucks or motor bike clubs . And who is to reinforce the by law. The RCMP? But I like the point being made. So stepping back I would be pleased if the Hwy Act were changed to 25 kph for all municipalities/ cities as a default and 40kph for arterial roads where posted. What is HUB proposing for posting changes on speed?

        1. HUB Cycling supports the campaign to change the MVA to allow municipalities to set lower speed limits than 50 km/hr for defined zones.

          HUB is a member of the Road Safety Law Reform Group. More info here: https://bikehub.ca/get-involved/bc-motor-vehicle-act-improvements

          Other members of this group include:

          – Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
          – Health Officers Council of BC
          – Fraser Health Authority
          – Interior Health Authority
          – Vancouver Coastal Health
          – BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit
          – City of New Westminster
          – City of Victoria
          – City of Vancouver Active Transportation Policy Council
          – Modo the Car Co-op
          – Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association
          – Vancouver Bike Share Inc. | MOBI
          – BC Cycling Coalition
          – HUB Cycling
          – Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition
          – Modacity Life