Lower speed limit unlikely for Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Victoria pressuring province to reduce municipal speed limits on residential streets from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.

Nanaimo likely won’t go down the same road as Victoria when it comes to exploring the idea of reducing speed limits for residential streets, said Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan.

On May 16, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin sent a letter to Nanaimo council and other councils across the province asking them to endorse a motion that would reduce the default municipal speed limit to 40 km/h from 50 km/h.

The motion has already been approved by the 51-member Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities in April, which will bring the motion to the table at the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in September.

“I would like to encourage a dialogue at your council table regarding traffic safety initiatives and invite motions of support for the resolution. It is our hope that with the combined voice of many local governments the resolution to reduce default speed limits for municipal roads will be supported at the UBCM convention in September,” wrote Fortin.

Victoria is pressing the provincial government to reduce default speed limits on municipal roads, specifically residential streets. It is considering establishing a pilot project in            residential neighbourhoods like James Bay. If successful in achieving a provincewide reduction, the cost of signage would be shared by all municipalities. It would be substantially more expensive for Victoria to pursue the project alone.

Though Nanaimo’s council unanimously supported Victoria’s effort, Ruttan said there has been no discussion on pursuing the idea in the Harbour City.

“Nobody made a motion on it so it just passed as correspondence,” said Ruttan. “For the most part I would be opposed to it, mainly because in Victoria, especially in areas like Oak Bay, there are some twisty-tiny little streets and 50 km/h is unrealistic. Here, there are a few streets like that but nothing on the scale of Victoria, and I think we’d have to look at the financial impact.”

Ruttan said signage alone would be “a huge cost”, and that a “hodge-podge” of speed limits throughout the city would be confusing for drivers.

Victoria’s motion does not include main arteries or major roads, and if 40 km/h is to become the new default, only roads with different limits would require signage. It would also require a bylaw listing every street affected by the new limit.

“My other concern when it first came up was what would the cost of enforcement be?” said Ruttan. “It’s a different scenario that may well work for Victoria and I respect Mayor Fortin’s initiative but I don’t think there’s an appetite on city council here to see any changes.”