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Key corridors would drop to 40km/h due to findings of safety studies
Saanich is looking to reduce speeds on several key road corridors following staff recommendations from safety studies. The stretches that would drop, mostly to 40km/h, include parts of Cedar Hill Cross, Gorge Road West, Tillicum, and Prospect Lake, along with the full seaside drive between Cordova and Cadboro Bays. Certain short sections such as the summit road of PKOLS (Mt Douglas Park) and parkside stretches of Prospect Lake Road would go down to 30km/h and 25km/h.
The Safe Speed Studies were initiated last July, and launched last fall, as part of Saanich’s new speed limit policies that emerged partly in response to injuries and deaths from collisions over the past year-plus. The studies’ risk assessments looked at distance between road users, vulnerability of road users, and how many points of conflict (e.g driveways and intersections, where roadways cross with sidewalks or bike lanes) there were along a set length of roadway.
The district plans to review all roads eventually, but those nine were all selected for the first round because crash data has shown that vehicle speed is an issue in these areas.
Both Saanich and Victoria staff, as part of speed limit changes made over the past year, have cited data on pedestrians surviving being hit by cars much more often at 40km/h (60%) than 50km/h (15%), and most often at 30km/h (90%).
The third reading of the speed reduction proposal passed unanimously this Monday, and council will now vote next meeting on full adoption. That third reading was the last at which council could receive the public’s feedback, which was almost entirely in support of the change. Signage would begin rollout this spring.
Councillors said that this is just one step, and that achieving safer roads and slowing traffic will also involve education, enforcement, and design. Staff are also working on expanding the area of reduced speed in the future.
The district has made a push over the past year-plus to reduce street speeds, spurred by serious collisions. Several of those were on Cedar Hill Cross, including one that killed Kaydence Bourque, 16, at the crosswalk at Merriman in Dec. 2021.
The district made changes to that crosswalk last year, but also accelerated efforts to make streets safer overall. In Feb. 2022 Saanich staff brought a “Vision Zero” report on ways to prevent traffic deaths, with the titular vision being zero traffic injuries or fatalities across all types of road users. Then in March, council voted to drop streets without a continuous yellow median to 30km/h.
That move came after the province did not grant a 2021 joint pilot project proposal to lower speeds from Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Sidney, and View Royal. In July 2022 Victoria went ahead with a bylaw change dropping limits on most residential streets to 30km/h, while Saanich ordered these street studies.
In fall 2022, as high-profile crashes continued (multiple involving minors, and multiple on Cedar Hill Cross), road safety was a popular issue in the October election. New mayor Dean Murdock had founded the road safety advocacy group Better Mobility Saanich, and campaigned in part on accessible and walkable streets and sidewalks.
The spread-out municipality tends to be car-heavy. But Murdock told Capital Daily last October, at a protest following a car hitting an eight-year-old on Shelbourne, “there is a bigger conversation about the use of roads. They are not just vehicle corridors.”
Lowering residential speed limits is preferred by a majority of BC residents, according to a 2022 survey, although on the Island that majority (58%) was not as high as other regions. In that survey, more women than men, and more younger people than older people, said they supported lowering the speed limits.
With files from Zoe Ducklow and Michael John Lo