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Province proposing changes to make it safer to walk and bike

Proposed amendments to Bill 23 aim to make roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians
On April 5, 2023 B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming tabled Bill 23 with several proposed amendments in store. This will include making roads safer for more vulnerable users such as cyclists and pedestrians. (Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

On Wednesday, April 5 B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming tabled Bill 23, proposing changes to the Motor Vehicle Act which will pave the way to improve road safety.

“Making our roads safer for everyone while enabling new and emerging transportation technology, especially personal mobility devices, is changing the way people and goods move safely around our cities and towns,” said Fleming. “This legislation requires drivers to use appropriate care around pedestrians and cyclists, supports enforcement of regulations, and sets a strong foundation for testing and evaluating new technology and policies as we shift to a net-zero future in B.C.”

The idea is to increase active transportation by making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to use the roads.

“Transportation accounts for a total of 40 per cent of our annual greenhouse gas emissions. Actions that reduce these emissions have a wide range of benefits, from cleaner air and less congestion to better health and walkable, accessible communities,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman.

Ammendments will include implementing a one-metre minimum safe-passing distance and a three-metre minimum following distance that drivers of motor vehicles must observe when sharing the road.

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“HUB Cycling is pleased to see the introduction of a minimum safe-passing distance law and other protections for vulnerable road users,” said Erin O’Melinn, executive director, HUB Cycling. “The majority of local residents cycle regularly or want to cycle but are held back by safety concerns. This is an important step to making all road users safer and to providing comfortable options for people to get around using active, healthy, affordable, sustainable modes of transportation.”

An expansion will also be made to the province’s authority to implement more pilot projects and it will also look at accquiring equipment to limit speeds and regulate the maximum speed of heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which in turn will potentially decrease GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and reduce speed-related crashes, making roads safer for all.

“We’ve advocated for speed limiters on heavy-duty commercial vehicles because the data shows they dramatically reduce the number of at fault speed-related accidents,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO of BC Trucking Association. “Additionally, speed limiters help green our sector by curbing fuel consumption and emissions generated by trucks travelling at high speeds. These amendments will benefit the trucking industry and British Columbians as a whole.”

Proposed legislation will also enable B.C. to regulate automated vehicles, including things such as licensing, insurance, prohibition and permitting, to support research, testing and use of these vehicles on roadways. Proposed changes aim to enable the safe use of a broader range of emerging technologies, such as micro-utility delivery robots and personal mobility devices.

Ammendments to Bill 23 are part of the B.C. government’s Clean Transportation Action Plan to be released later this year. This will put forward a comprehensive plan to enable more modes of transportation to shift people out of cars and reduce vehicle kilometres travelled. Through these changes the government is taking additional steps to meet CleanBC: Roadmap to 2030 emissions reduction targets. This will include increasing the share of trips made by active transportation, such as walking and cycling, to 30 per cent and decreasing GHG emissions in transportation by 27 to 32 per cent.

“A major part of shifting to a low-carbon economy is ensuring people have safe alternatives to get where they’re going,” said Minister of State for Infrastructure and Transit, Dan Coulter.

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