Old habits die hard.
We will not claim to be immune from our own time-honed habits, and freely admit to stepping pretty hard on the brakes all week as we came around the corner into Ganges from the south, and — oh, right! — spotted the new 30 km/h signs. It was already a good idea to slow down before the signs were there, but now we’re better reminded.
Long-time island drivers will recall how long it took Salt Spring to get used to the idea of a four-way stop at Central; even today, it might be argued, many of us aren’t quite there yet. But it’s proven to be a solid safety measure, the kind increasingly necessary as there are more drivers, more riders and even more pedestrians on island roads. That’s part of what change looks like; sometimes, like at the four-way stop, it’s a matter of taking a moment to look around before proceeding as usual. And sometimes it just looks like slowing down.
In Ganges, that slowdown means fewer of the seemingly inevitable conflicts between motorists and pedestrians will be fatal; DriveBC estimated pedestrian crash survivability rates at 50 km/h at just 20 per cent, versus 90 per cent at 30 km/h. That’s no small change, and a good one.
But in terms of “things we can do to make Ganges safer,” this feels like the absolute least we can do. Changing a sign should be the low-hanging fruit of safety improvements, and that it took years to get the change approved and implemented signals that perhaps we should make our own changes.
We can reduce traffic by sharing more rides, making fewer vehicle trips and hopping on the bus more often — all without provincial approval. Drivers can improve pedestrian safety by slowing down and keeping their eyes peeled for those on foot, even without a sign mandating it. And those on foot can keep their own heads up as well, and both pedestrians and cyclists can ensure they are visible with lights and reflective clothing at night. No increases to budget proposals are required for those kind of changes.
Slower speed limit signs in Ganges are a welcome addition. But achieving long-lasting transportation safety might not lie with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as much as in changing our own habits.