EDITORIAL: ‘Rural’ road safety

The process for changing speed limits is quite different depending on the jurisdiction

Sadly, it often takes tragedy before real action is taken.

The death of an 80-year-old woman in the Morningstar area of French Creek — she was hit by a vehicle whose driver may not have even known that it happened — has brought other issues to light that expand beyond the immediate neighbourhood.

However, the issues do start right in Morningstar, specifically as they relate to speed limits.

Police say the tragedy last week was not related to speed. Police also tell us they have not identified speeding as an issue on the road in question (Roberton Boulevard).

Residents of the area likely disagree with the sentiment expressed in that last sentence.

A petition with 169 signatures — collected before the deadly incident last week — was sent to the Ministry of Transportation, MLA Michelle Stilwell and RDN rep Joe Stanhope. Along with the petition was a letter that alleged a “lack of concern” by officials “in providing adequate measures to control the speed of vehicle traffic on the ‘S’ curve of Roberton.” The letter went further, suggesting if action isn’t taken, “we will definitely have a serious injury or worse, a fatality.”

Changing a speed limit on a roadway is not a simple procedure. It seems to be a more difficult task for roads that fall outside municipal boundaries, as this neighbourhood does. When a town or city wants a change in speed limit, they can do it through a council motion, as Parksville did recently near Foster Park. It’s not so cut-and-dried for rural areas, which must work through the Ministry of Transportation.

Thing is, the Roberton/Morningstar area is hardly rural. Same with Sandpiper. Or Columbia Beach. Lower property taxes and development cost charges in the Regional District of Nanaimo have resulted in a mini building boom on the land around French Creek. It seems more homes have been built there in the last few years than in Parksville and Qualicum Beach combined.

Still, the RDN and Ministry of Transportation seem to treat these urban areas with some of the same rules they would for deep, rural Errington.

Not too many years ago, in a place where Premier Christy Clark is now the MLA, the province came calling and told the people of West Kelowna they could no longer get the rural discounts, they could no longer be governed by the regional district model and had to choose, through a referendum, to join Kelowna or go it alone. Hmmm…

— Editorial by John Harding

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