A consortium of public safety lobbyists says lowering the speed limits on neighbourhood streets in B.C. to 30 km/h would save money and lives.
“There’s a lot of easy fixes that need to be made,” said local researcher Corey Burger, a member of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. “It shouldn’t take a death to change laws, B.C. needs to be proactive.”
The recommendations were reviewed and considered by the City of Victoria, which dropped the limits on several thoroughfares to 40km/h.
Burger and the GVCC are part of The Road Safety Law Reform Group, which includes the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association, HUB Cycling, the BC Cycling Coalition and public health researchers, representing over 50,000 members. The group has a detailed list of evidence-based bylaws that would safen the roads for British Columbians.
Some the road rules in B.C. hardly make sense, he said, adding the province needs to modernize the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act.
Burger pointed to New Brunswick implementing Ellen’s Law this year, in which drivers passing cyclists must give at least a metre of space between their vehicles and the cyclist.
The rule came into effect following the death of Ellen Watters, 28, in December of 2016. Watters was a pro cyclist on the World Tour who died after she was struck by a car on a training ride in New Brunswick. The driver wasn’t charged.
Under the new law police can fine drivers $172 for driving too close.
In B.C., there is no such law, though the safe passing law does require some diligence on behalf of the driver. However, in 2017, it’s a simple rule that would saves lives and is easy to enforce.
“In England the police have a bicycle with a box behind the seat that measures the distance of a passing car,” said Burger, referencing the significant drop in incidents since West Midlands started enforcing safe overtaking. “If a passing car is within the allotted space.”
It gets worse. A driver who “doors” a cyclist is subject to a $81 fine and one demerit.
“In contrast, illegal dumping [in Saanich] can fetch you a $150 fine,” Burger quipped. “You get in more trouble if you cut down a tree.”
In Victoria, the new bike lanes mirror a trend in other cities that have also upgraded their cycling infrastructure. The bike lane network will be completed in just over a year and have met a nasty reaction from dissenting drivers. In light of that, Burger just points to the evidence.
“We know that people feel that driving quickly is safe,” Burger said. “Evidence says it isn’t. Incidents are going up, only up, it costs money for the medical system, it’s lost wages, and in some cases cyclists who are severely injured end up getting back in their car.”
Less incidents, therefore, will lead to less claims and prevent ICBC costs from rising, which they are and will, if the annual number of pedestrian and cycling incidents continue to increase.
If enacted, exceptions to the 30km/h default on neighbourhood streets would be specified with a sign on each block.
The recent census report showed Victoria leads the country in using sustainable modes to travel to work, with 6.6 per cent of residents in the CRD.
Most people want slower speeds in their neighbourhoods: in a 2013 survey by the Canadian Automobile Association, 94 per cent of respondents reported that speeding on residential streets was a serious threat to their personal safety.