Central Saanich is taking steps to join a proposed pilot project designed to study the impact of lowering speed limits on certain roads.
Council signed off on a staff recommendation to join Saanich’s application for a speed limit pilot project with a formal resolution forthcoming at a later date. Streets without a continuous yellow centre line would have a default speed limit of 40 km/h rather than 50 km/h for three years, if the provincial government approves the three-year pilot. It would come into effect in the fall of 2021, with the application window opening in early 2021.
According to a staff report, the change (if successful) would apply mostly to roads that have lower traffic volume but not affect school zones, playground zones or other existing speed zones, with several areas in Central Saanich already subject to 40 km/h. According to the report, nine regional municipalities (including Sidney but not North Saanich) signalled interest in the project.
Central Saanich did not formally join when the question first appeared before council earlier this year but staff have been participating in planning discussions.
The question of appropriate speed limits has been a long-standing subject of public discourse in Central Saanich thanks to its large road network, which includes rural roads as well as major regional thoroughfares (such as Keating Cross Road or West Saanich Road). Highway 17 also runs through the community, whose elected officials have been at the local forefront in pushing the provincial government for higher speeding fines.
According to the staff report, the move promises to save lives. “Reducing default speed limits has many benefits, including reducing vehicle operating speeds, improving road safety, and improving neighbourhood livability,” it reads. “It can have significant safety benefits in terms of fewer collisions as well as less severe collisions when they do occur.”
According to the report, multiple research studies have found that the likelihood of a pedestrian or cyclist fatality increases when hit by a vehicle travelling at higher speeds. “Collisions at 30 km/h or less correlate with a lower probability of death (10 per cent), compared to a 40 (per cent) probability of death in a collision at 40 km/h. The probability of death increases significantly, with an 80 (per cent probability) of death in a collision at 50 km/h.”
Central Saanich’s pending move comes after North Saanich voted against participating by a vote of 6-1 with opponents questioning North Saanich’s suitability to participate as well as stated opposition from two major police leaders.
Joining the project comes with a yet-to-be determined cost for Central Saanich. North Saanich’s contribution to the project would have been $15,000 to $20,000.
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