EDITORIAL: New bylaw could change direction of neighbourhood traffic calming
It could be a bumpy road ahead for neighbourhood street safety.
This week, District of North Vancouver council voted 4-3 in favour of amendments to the local improvement cost-sharing bylaw that will change the municipality’s traffic-calming policy.
Here’s how it used to work: If neighbourhood residents wanted traffic calming on their streets but the district didn’t deem it to be a priority, residents could pay for the speed bumps, traffic circles or other calming measures, provided that 50 per cent of those impacted by the road improvements were in favour of it.
Now the threshold for neighbourhood consent has been raised to two-thirds.
That shift brings the district in line with best practices in other Lower Mainland municipalities, but Coun. Lisa Muri, who voted against amending the bylaw, believes the 66 per cent majority now required is too high.
“Traffic calming is too important,” she said.
And, depending on the size of the street, obtaining a two-thirds majority could be a very tall order. “A simple majority (50 per cent plus one) is fair,” she said.
The other change to the bylaw allows for residents of busier collector roads to also qualify for local improvement projects (before it was just residents of lower-traffic local roads).
As it now stands, traffic calming projects can be initiated by DNV staff, council or residents and each request goes through a six-step process from identification to implementation. Projects are ranked and classified into two categories “larger-scale projects that rank highest are considered for council funding. [And] smaller-scale projects may qualify under the Local Improvement process.”
There’s no question that the district is limited by budgetary constraints and must prioritize larger projects that are of the most critical importance to public safety. The municipality simply can’t afford to install a curb bulge or speed table in every neighbourhood that makes a request to slow traffic on its streets. But that doesn’t mean those requests aren’t a priority for a particular neighbourhood.
That’s why the neighbourhood-pay model makes so much sense. If residents aren’t willing to wait for street fixes, they can have the cost of the improvements added to property taxes over a 10- to 20-year period. After all, local residents are the first to know when problematic traffic patterns emerge.
And, as Muri noted, every neighbourhood is unique. So shouldn’t the new bylaw amendments reflect that? Perhaps in the case where a street has, say, 50-plus residents the majority threshold could be lowered. Or if a neighbourhood only receives 60 per cent in favour of a new project then a DNV engineer can decide whether or not to proceed with a proposal.
While the new traffic calming bylaw ensures fewer people opposed to changes to their local traffic patterns will end up footing the bill for them, it also means many important proposed traffic initiatives — some critical to the livability of a neighbourhood — will end up hitting a neighbour roadblock. And that’s a dangerous road to be traveling down.