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Victoria eyes lower speed limits in James Bay

A City of Victoria resolution to create a 40 km/h default speed limit across B.C. is poised to spark debate at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention next month in Vancouver.

But even if the resolution fails to gain support from a majority of communities at the Sept. 16-20 meetings, at least one Victoria councillor wants to set up a pilot study with lowered speed limits in James Bay.

"We're hoping to take leadership as the capital city of B.C.," said acting mayor Shellie Gudgeon. "Several councillors and I are going to put forward a motion (in October) to do a pilot project in a City of Victoria neighbourhood."

The city's UBCM resolution calls on the provincial government to lower the default speed limit for vehicles by 10 km/h. Currently, any street void of speed limit signage allows drivers to travel 50 km/h, and posting lowered speed limits can be a big expense to cash-strapped municipalities.

"Even laneways can be 50 km/h if it's not signed," Gudgeon said. "It's far too fast for neighbourhoods and families."

James Bay is an ideal neighbourhood to test a 40 km/h speed limit, she said, as it sits on a natural peninsula and would require minimum signage at major entrance points.

The idea is supported by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, said chair Marg Gardiner, who expressed some skepticism at moving forward.

"The city administration have been talking about this for 20 years," Gardiner said. "But where there's a will, there's a way. James Bay is an ideal location for a street pilot study or for a complete neighbourhood study."

Gudgeon said major roadways like Blanshard Street could also be reviewed to potentially increase the speed limit.

"I don't want to raise terror in anyone but there are certain arteries that perhaps could be looked at differently (or) raised to 60 km/h," she said.

Gudgeon noted officials in Hamilton, Ont. have just launched a five-year, 30 km/h pilot study in its North End neighbourhood after residents lobbied council for more than a decade.

"It's an idea whose time has come if you look worldwide," she said.

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