Speed humps debate excludes voice of renters

Current traffic policy in New West focuses on homeowners only

Raised crosswalk, a type of speed hump, in New West Minster. Screenshot from Google Maps
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Reported by Kelsea Franzke

New Westminster residents are going to get the right to ask the city for speed humps on their streets – but only if they are homeowners, unless some councillors are successful in getting that changed at the next city council meeting.

A new policy proposed by New Westminster’s engineering department would allow a hump to go in if a speed issue is identified by a resident of the street, brought to the attention of the city, and then must be supported by at least 50 per cent of the residents of that street.

However, only homeowners and property managers can have a say in this proposed policy, which is being brought in to help deal with one of New Westminster’s biggest problems – traffic.

With New Westminster at the dead centre of Metro Vancouver, almost half of the region crosses through the city daily.

Current policy

However, the speed-hump policy’s reliance on homeowners only prompted some councillors to ask for changes.

Coun. Patrick Johnstone was concerned that the proposed speedhump policy was excluding neighbourhoods largely populated with renters, so he seconded a motion put forward by Coun. Mary Trentadue to send the policy back for review.

“I think [this proposed policy] was designed to deal with a singlefamily neighbourhood, not some of our neighbourhoods that have more diverse populations,” Johnstone said. “I don’t know how this would apply to more of our more rental-oriented neighbourhoods.”

Victoria Mau, a teacher and New Westminster resident who has rented in the city for two years, said that renters should have the same rights as any resident.

“Renters are still paying rent and taxes to live in a particular city, so they should have a way to voice their opinion about changes that are happening where they’re living,” Mau said.

Less need for speed

Speed humps, not to be mistaken for speed bumps that are taller and typically found in parking lots, are intended to reduce driver speeds by approximately 15 kilometres per hour. Speed humps, first tested in 1979, have proven to be an effective traffic-calming strategy, and often reduce the speed of vehicles by 40 per cent, although critics have said they only cause a temporary slowdown.

But the restriction that only homeowners can ask for and approve them is cause for concern, according to one renters’ advocate.

“I mean, speed humps, no biggie. It’s a small thing. But it really does illustrate something that’s quite systemic and embedded in a lot of local government processes which are largely oriented towards property owners rather than residents,” said Karen Sawatzky, the former chair of Vancouver’s renters advisory committee.

She also said that the type of home a person has should not determine whether or not they can voice concerns in their municipality.

Another issue that was brought up at the council meeting by Trentadue was the notion of having to get support from at least 50 per cent of people living on the street.

“If we are a city that values walking and safety over vehicles and driving, if we the city determine there is an issue on the street, why would we make someone work harder to provide safety on the street?” Trentadue said.

Lisa Leblanc, manager of transportation and engineering services in New Westminster, said that they want to have at least 50-per-cent support from residents to avoid complaints.

“Part of it is preemptively dealing with the complaints that sometimes come when we do things like this, so it allows us to say that the majority of people on this street support this measure,” Leblanc said.

The New Westminster traffic advisory committee is reviewing the proposed policy and will present a revised version at the next city council meeting.

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