A new year and time to remind the Province that some initiatives are simple to make movement around places more palatable for more people during the pandemic and after. There is an increase in people wanting to walk, roll and bike and get outside. Regional parks in Metro Vancouver had a 61 percent increase in visits in June of 2020 compared to June of 2019. Sadly access to most regional parks requires a vehicle.
We saw nimble work in some surprising places with repurposing roads for all street users, with Winnipeg and Calgary leading the way. The City of Vancouver was a little slower in their rollout of “Slow Streets” which referred to streets where walking and cycling were supposedly encouraged by signage for slower vehicle driver movement.
Sadly the barriers of choice for Slow Streets were very moveable rather light plastic jersey barriers, which of course were scuttled to the side of many of the designated streets by vehicle drivers, much the way a spent beer can is kicked to the curb when there’s no deposit on the return.
But look at what Brussels in Belgium has achieved~they have a metro population of 2.5 million (Vancouver’s metro area is 2.46.)
With the extraordinary statement that motorists “should simply no longer feel welcome” the Transportation Minister for Brussels announced that in the inner city a new 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limit covers the entire city centre. This applies to all streets except for ring roads and some traffic arteries.
In Brussels fifty people annually die or are seriously maimed by speeding drivers. The intent is to have more rail use and less vehicular traffic in the inner city for air quality purposes , and to reduce vehicular traffic by 33 percent. The goal within ten years is to have the entire city consisting of traffic calmed zones, with more right of way space dedicated to pedestrians, open spaces and bike lanes.
Helga Schmidt in Taggesschau.de points out that enforcement will be achieved by the increased use of speed cameras set up throughout the city. By announcing the intended measures last year, the agency in charge of mobility in the Brussels-Capital area already has undertaken consultations with transportation businesses, transit operators, police and the public.
Extra funding has been allocated for addressing streets that are still dangerous to vulnerable users, as well as for assistance in processing fines for speeding drivers.
Contrast this with the request of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in 2019 who unanimously approved the motion to ask the Province to allow municipalities to be able to make 30 kilometer per hour neighbourhood zones. UBCM wants to make it easier for municipalities in B.C. to follow the leads of other jurisdictions in slowing driver speed limits to increase livability in neighbourhoods.
Without the Province giving their assent, cities choosing to have 30 km/h zones have to sign every street in every direction for the reduced speed. Not only is this costly, it also is quite frankly silly, when a simple Provincially approved undertaking for neighbourhood wide 30 km/h speed limits and perimeter signage describes the purpose and does the job.
The Province’s answer? During a pandemic when more people are trying to walk and get outside for mental and physical health? When people are working from home more and need to get outside more and change their patterns? When we are trying to reduce automobile usage and make streets safer? When we could simply do a demonstration project with this because it is the right thing to do?
Nothing. No response from the Province. Crickets.
Meanwhile in Brussels where the city’s road network already had 60 percent of the network at 30 km/h, the new edict vastly reduces automobile emissions,promotes walking, rolling and cycling and allows the street to be used differently. As Brussels’ Transportation Minister Elke Van der Brandt bluntly put it, “Drivers have to adjust to a new normal” that is inclusive of other users on the streets.
In British Columbia we are still waiting for Provincial permission for cities to even trial this at a neighbourhood level.
You can take a look at the new roll-out for 30 kilometer streets in Brussels in the YouTube video below.