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The main road in Rossland, B.C., which will stay at 50 km/h and will not be one of the many town roads to switch to a 30 km/h speed limit.

Eric Jurewich

While B.C. has raised the speed limit on some highways to 120 km/h, one town is going the other way.

Rossland , a small mountain town (population: 3,556) tucked into the south-central part of the province near Red Mountain Resort, has lowered the speed limit to 30 km/h from 40 km/h. The speed limits in school zones are being lowered to 15 km/h, and the streets in two neighbourhoods are getting permanent 20 km/h zones.

"We got a sticky three and put it over the four," says Michael Maturo, interim chief administrative officer for Rossland. He drafted the policy and presented it to city council who then voted on it. He said the policy came after years of residents raising concerns. And while there has not been a single incident, the town didn't want it to get to that point.

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"We don't have sidewalks, we're a mountain community with a lot of steeply graded roads," Maturo says. "It would make an engineer pull his hair out."

In addition to the challenging topography, Rossland has three local school and daycare centres meaning hundreds of children are walking on streets, not sidewalks. The municipality also receives a lot of snow and speed bumps interfere with the constant plowing.

After a "lively" discussion, "the consensus was that slowing traffic was a good idea but it would take more than changing the posted limit to do so," says Rossland mayor Kathy Moore. She adds they are looking into adding little green Martian figures to indicate children in the area, and installing sidewalks, bike lanes and traffic calming features on one main route.

According to the city, having to drive 10 km/h slower will add 30 seconds to a one-kilometre trip and, despite the reduction, most residents will still be able to drive from home to the highway fissuring the town in less than three minutes.

While 30 km/h may seem slow, Maturo says many of the neighbouring communities have adopted similar speed limits. And in Ontario, where a poll shows half of residents want higher highway speed limits, members of the Toronto-East York community council voted unanimously to reduce the speed limit to 30 km/h from 40 on local roads . In Manitoba, Winnipeg's public works chairwoman is now hoping her city will follow.

"We mind as well see what happens, it's not going to ruin anything," says Maturo. "If residents don't like it they can change it to 35 (or back to 40)."

"It feels right, but in some areas it will take some getting used to," says Moore. "Just since this discussion has started, I've noticed people driving slower."

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