The City of Vancouver will test whether slow makes for safer streets.
In a surprise twist, however, the trial run for a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour will involve not only cars but also bicycles, electric bikes, skateboards, and everything that goes fast.
The inclusion of all types of transportation was suggested by councillor Melissa De Genova in an amendment to a motion by her colleague, Pete Fry, to lower automobile speed on residential streets.
The Motor Vehicle Act provides a limit of 50 kilometres per hour within city limits. The law also establishes a limit of 30 kilometres per hour at school zones and playgrounds.
In a council meeting Tuesday (May 14), De Genova said that applying the same limit to all types of vehicles will prevent confrontation on the streets.
She also related to her colleagues that she and her daughter, a toddler, were recently almost struck by a speeding cyclist while they were crossing a street.
During a break in the council meeting, De Genova recalled the same incident in an interview.
“I had to pull my stroller back so we wouldn’t be hit,” De Genova told the Georgia Straight by phone. “That being said, I’ve also had that incident happen with a vehicle as well. So I think it should be all vehicles.”
According to De Genova, she didn’t cite her experience with a car in council because automobiles were already covered in Fry’s original motion.
“It’s not about pointing fingers and blaming others,” De Genova said about why bicycles and others should be covered as well. “It’s about working together to achieve the best outcome that we can to make sure that there aren’t fatalities and injuries when it comes to different types of transportation.”
During the meeting, Fry noted that bicycles do not have speedometers. Councillor Rebecca Bligh supported De Genova’s suggestion, saying that the test is simply a trial.
In the phone interview, De Genova said that speed monitors can be used during the pilot project to tell people how fast they are going in their cars or bicycles.
De Genova also successfully pushed that council receives from city staff a memorandum with a complete budget for the test before any work starts.
The city has yet to identify a street for the trial run.
In the end, council approved Fry’s motion, as amended by De Genova.
Fry told his colleagues that several cities in Europe have reduced car speeds on their streets. For North America, he cited the example of Portland, Oregon.
A day before the council meeting, Fry issued a media release featuring an endorsement of his motion by Vancouver Coastal Health. In a letter to the city, VCH medical health officer Emily Newhouse noted that setting the speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour reduces serious injuries and deaths by a range of 25 percent to 65 percent.
“Evidence also suggests that lower neighbourhood speed limits can also have important indirect effects—making active transportation more attractive by increasing a sense of safety and improving the aesthetic experience,” Newhouse wrote.