British Columbia

City of Vancouver considers more speed limit reductions

Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city wants to lower pedestrian fatalities.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city wants to lower pedestrian fatalities but cautious of slowing traffic

The windshield on a Mercedes car is crushed inward after a collision with a pedestrian on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The City of Vancouver is considering reducing speed limits on more municipal roads in an effort to curb pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said it is keeping a close eye on other municipalities across Canada that have taken similar steps to slow traffic.

"We're watching other cities that are going to 30 kilometres in residential areas," said Robertson at a media event on Wednesday.

"Some [reductions] are city-wide now, which obviously has implications for goods movement and commuting times, but we're looking at it within the context of our Transportation 2040 Plan and looking at eliminating traffic fatalities — that's the overall goal." 

Mayor Gregor Robertson says the City of Vancouver is assessing the effectiveness of speed limit reductions in other municipalities across Canada. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

One city that could prove a useful case study is Montreal. On Tuesday, the city's mayor, Denis Coderre, announced plans for a city-wide reduction of speed limits to be implemented next spring, lowering speed limits to 30 or 40 kilometres per hour on most city streets. The move is modelled after Sweden's Vision Zero Initiative, aimed at putting an end to traffic fatalities.

Meanwhile, Edmonton also has plans in motion to slow traffic.

"We'll continue to look at whether a broader implementation of 30 km/h makes sense. So far, we're making progress on reducing fatalities, but we want that to go right down to zero," said Robertson

A provincial report

In Vancouver, speed limits have already been reduced in some traffic fatality hotpsots, including East Hastings Street, and speeds along parts of the city's bike network have been brought down to 30 km/h.

But while Robertson says a formal speed reduction plan remains to be seen, last year a report from the province's health officer called for city-wide speed limit reductions across B.C.

Cycling advocates say 20 per cent of Grandview-Woodlands residents use bikes for transportation. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

According to the report submitted to the province by Dr. Perry Kendall, reducing speed limits from 50 to 30 kilometres an hour is among the most effective ways to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities — two groups which together account for more nearly half of all traffic deaths in Metro Vancouver each year.

About 280 people are killed every year and 79,000 people injured on public roads in the province.

Slowing down the suburbs

Other municipalities in Metro Vancouver are also trending towards slower traffic along certain corridors.

New Westminster has reduced speeds to 30 km/h throughout its bike route network.

In North Vancouver, steps are also being made to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

Police say the car was impounded after being clocked doing 210 km/h on Monday. (West Vancouver Police)

"Our traffic plan prioritizes walking, cycling and public transit higher than the single occupant vehicle," said City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

Advocates from the North Shore have long called for speed limits in the region to be lowered to 30 km/h, but Mussatto says the city will look at what transpires in other municipalities before making a substantial change.

"To do the city as a whole, I think it would be very difficult," he said. "We'd want to learn from what's been done."