Are you planning to drive around Victoria on your vacation? There are some quirky things you need to know before you get behind the wheel.
This is NOT an advance left turn signal giving you right of way. I moved here from Ontario where a flashing green light meant that you have the right of way to make a left-hand turn and oncoming traffic would have a red light. I don’t know what it is like in other provinces but it does not mean that here! In British Columbia a flashing green light is a pedestrian-activated cross walk. So, if you approach a green light that is flashing, slow down and prepare to stop if it gets activated. According to the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Ontario is moving to adopt Transportation Association of Canada standards and is moving away from the flashing green light as a protected left-turn signal.
I’m sure Victoria is not alone, but it does seem like there are excessive street name changes in this town. It can feel as though every time a street curves, it changes names. One example of a street I use regularly is Old Island Highway. Closest to Victoria the road begins as Tyee Road, it curves to the left and briefly becomes Skinner, then it curves to the right and begins life as Craigflower Street. When Craigflower crosses Admirals and you enter the Town of View Royal, it becomes Old Island Highway and then when it curves again to the left, it becomes Sooke Road. And we have many, many examples of this phenomenon.
Anecdotally, the streets in Victoria seem quite narrow. Again, I draw comparison to Ontario but it sure seems like each lane is a foot or more narrower than I was used to before moving here. I believe it comes down to snow. Ontario roads must be wide enough to accommodate banks of snow along the side of the road – for several months of the year. Victoria simply does not have that need. If and when it does snow here, it is usually only on the roads for a day or two – and maybe an entire week if we had some freak blizzard. Making roads wider for such a limited purpose just doesn’t seem necessary.
Have you noticed curbs painted red, or yellow or white or not at all? Here’s what it means. A red curb designates a bus stop and there is no stopping by passenger vehicles. Yellow curbs are no parking zones and white curbs are usually loading zones for commercial vehicles. Curbs with white paint will usually have signage indicating the hours of the commercial parking zone and other vehicles are permitted to park there, outside of those hours. No paint at all means you are allowed to park but there may still be some restrictions, for example residential parking only or limits on the size of vehicle or length of time the vehicle is permitted to park.
Learning how to safely cross a road was drilled into us at school growing up. “Look right, look left, then look right again”. I swear people here just drop their foot off the curb and start crossing, without even looking up from their phones! There is simply no regard for their own safety. So, beware of the pedestrian.
The good news for cyclists is that we do have an impressive range of dedicated bike lanes and more are being built every year. The tough thing for drivers is that with each new lane built, it means narrower roads, fewer parking stalls and more rules surrounding changing lanes and turning corners where bike lanes exist. Also, we have some busy roads that are already a bit narrow without dedicated bike lanes meaning that bikes are travelling in the same lane as the vehicles. Two that are somewhat harrowing are Shelbourne and Bay Streets. Remember cyclists have the right to the lane and are not required to ride on the shoulder.
The speed limit of the majority of Greater Victoria is 50km with some roads at 40km and a large number at 30km per hour. Accept that when you drive around Victoria, it is a pretty slow pace and most people are okay with that. We’re on Island time after all!
The Galloping Goose Regional Trail is a multi-use path that weaves its way throughout Greater Victoria. For the most part, the trail is protected from vehicular traffic however there are sections where it crosses roads. For the most part the BIKE HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY. Beware of these crossings and be sure to come to a complete stop and look for oncoming cyclists/scooters. Some commuter cyclists drive it like a freeway and they can be upon you in seconds!
Buses in Victoria have the right to re-enter traffic after leaving a bus stop. It is the law that you must yield the right-of-way to a transit vehicle that has signaled and is pulling back onto the roadway. Don’t be that jerk that tries to out-run them.
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