Vernon speed limit increase divides politicians and the public

A decision to increase the speed limit on part of Commonage Road has been controversial. Megan Turcato reports.

The speed limit is set to rise on a stretch of busy Vernon road but the controversial decision has divided city council and the public.

Both those for and against the speed limit increase believe their preferred option would be safer.

That means the speed limit will be going up on just over 700 m of Commonage Road south of Bench Row Road.

The area of Commonage Road where the speed limit will increase.
The area of Commonage Road where the speed limit will increase. Global News

Coun. Scott Anderson supported the change, arguing the real safety risk is an artificially low speed limit well below the speed that most vehicles travel.

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“I voted in favour of it because people tend to drive to conditions, not to what the speed limit,” explained Anderson.

Council narrowly supported the change after receiving a petition with well over 250 signatures calling for a speed limit increase on a much longer portion of the road.

The petition argues the posted speed limits are speed traps that “do not reflect the nature and use of the road.”

READ MORE: New variable speed limit signs rolled out at the mouth of the Fraser Valley

An argument that didn’t sway Coun. Akbal Mund, who voted against a speed increase.

“People are just in a hurry. I get it. Sometimes I’m in a hurry too just like everybody else. There is no reason to increase the speed on that road,” said Mund.

Mund believes a higher speed poses a safety risk to pedestrians and cyclists as well as drivers.

The change is not going over well with residents who live on both sides of the stretch.

Resident Jolene McLellan started an online petition against the speed limit increase, which had more than 200 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

McLellan doesn’t believe drivers will slow down after passing through the 70 km/h stretch.

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Her neighbour Ken Koebernick also believes the speed increase will only lead to even faster driving.

READ MORE: Transportation Minister announces decrease to speed limit on some B.C. roads

“They already go in excess of 90 (km/h),” Koebernick said, adding he’s also worried about sightlines getting out of his driveway.

“It’s not safe if I enter the road, to go right to Vernon, I can’t be sure there is no cars coming … because they do not obey the speed limit,” he said.

READ MORE: Stunting charges laid after vehicle clocked travelling 70 km/hr over the speed limit in Kingston, N.S.

A city staff report recommended against raising the speed limit on Commonage Road as well as connecting Mission Road due to concerns about sightlines.

However, Anderson does not believe that vehicles will go faster due to the speed limit change.

“We’ve heard a number of arguments that suggests if we raise (the speed limit) 20 km/h everybody is going to be driving 20 kilometres over the speed limit, that doesn’t actually bear out in reality,” Anderson said.

Anderson also pointed out that Lorne Holowachuk, who spearheaded the petition in favour of the speed limit increase, has previously worked as an engineer for the city and the Ministry of Transportation.

A city spokesperson could not say when the approved change is expected to take effect.

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As for whether the province would consider increasing the speed limit to 70 km/h on the portion of Commonage Road in provincial jurisdiction, the ministry responsible did not make any commitments but said in a statement “it is important to have a consistent speed limit on both the municipal and provincial portions of the road.”