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Does Whistler have a need for speed?

Whistler council ponders lowering speed limits

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does whistler have a need for speed?

Not in residential zones, according to dozens of local residents.

At its Sept. 3 meeting, council received no fewer than 82 pieces of correspondence urging it to reduce the speed limit on Nicklaus North Boulevard from 50 kilometres/hour to 30 km/h.

"On May 14, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved a test project for a residential street or area to reduce the speed limit from 50 km to 30 km. The same proposal has been approved for Victoria," said Nicklaus North resident John Richmond at the meeting.

"Montreal, Portland, Seattle, New York City, Stockholm and Paris have reduced the speed limit on side streets. Everyone is fine and people still get to work and make their tee times."

It's not the first time Whistler residents have lobbied council for lower speed limits or additional speed bumps in residential zones.

In February, Councillor Jen Ford attended the Vision Zero Summit in Surrey, where close to 100 road safety experts, municipal government staff, civic leaders, researchers and public health professionals discussed the issue of road safety.

One of her takeaways from the event, she said at the Feb. 12 council meeting, was that a 30 km/hr speed limit makes sense, as research shows the probability of pedestrian survival is about 90 per cent if struck by a vehicle at that speed, but reduced to 20 per cent if struck by a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h.

"We have received a number of these letters. We have seen a great deal of interest, I think, in slowing down our residential neighbourhoods, and it's not exclusive in Nicklaus North," Ford said at the Sept. 3 meeting.

"When you see neighbourhoods that don't have sidewalks—don't have shoulders even—in our residential areas, and we see kids walking to the school bus, and we see people that just fly through these neighbourhoods... reduction in speed on all of our residential roads is long overdue, and I would like to see this changed as soon as possible."

Ford suggested referring the 82 letters to the Transportation Advisory Group (TAG), and asking staff to come back with a recommendation "as soon as possible."

But there are budget considerations to think of, said Mayor Jack Crompton, noting that in the case of the City of Vancouver (which has submitted a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) asking for incorporated municipalities to be allowed to institute blanket speed zones in residential areas), it would be responsible for paying for new signage if it were to institute the change itself.

"So what they have asked, and what we will be seeing at UBCM, is for the province to downgrade the default speed limit across the province to 30 km an hour in residential areas," Crompton said.

"So I think that there is some work to do for staff and some thought to put into it for TAG before we would make a decision like that at this table."

Resort Municipality of Whistler staff has done speed counts in various neighbourhoods—including one recently in Nicklaus North after seeing the letters in the council package, said general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey.

"We've found frequently when we've done speed counts in various neighbourhoods, often the average speed is below 40 already, even though the speed limit is 50 ... Most people aren't comfortable going 50 down narrow streets, so there's a bit of a balance there," Hallisey said. "[But] we can put all these things together and bring it forward to council with an information package."

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