Residential Streets & Speed Limits Guide For Beautiful BC

Welcome to the article all about residential streets, and speed limits in British Columbia.

Jump to a section:

  1. Speed Limits In BC
  2. Maximum Speed Limits
  3. If Conditions Are Less Than Ideal
  4. Deciding the Best Speeds For Residential Streets
  5. What Speed Makes Sense?
  6. Example Road 30 km/hr – 40 km/hr maximum
  7. Another Example in Burnaby
  8. Is it Only About Parked Cars On Residential Streets?
  9. 16th Avenue in Burnaby
  10. Speed Limit Question
  11. How Do I Know I’m in a Residential Speed Zone?
  12. Speed Limits in Rossland, BC

Speed Limits In BC & Residential Streets

Let’s talk about speed limits in BC, including speed limits for residential streets.

  • In beautiful British Columbia, the speed limit is 50 km/hr in cities unless otherwise posted
  • In the alley, it is 20 km/hr maximum

Speed Limit in Residential Area BC

Technically, the speed limit for residential streets is still 50 km/hr unless there are signs indicating something else. This doesn’t always mean that driving 50 km/hr on these streets is a good idea.

If you’re a driver wondering about residential streets, check out these tips.

This article is inspired by a question from a reader:

My N test is 2 weeks away, and I hope you could clarify a few things for me.
1) When driving in a residential area, my coach says that if there are cars parked on both sides and the road is narrow, I should drive at around 35 km/h; if there are no cars, I should drive at around 40 km/h. Will this give me a fail because I’m not driving at the speed limit?

2) Is it alright to drive at 51-52 km/h? I hear that some friends got penalized for driving slower than the limit (47-48 ish). Is it better to go faster than it or slower than it?

Thank you!

Maximum Speed Limits on Residential Streets

The posted speed limit within the city/town – or if not posted, 50 km/hr – has always been the maximum speed that you may go in ideal conditions. This means use your discretion. You can decide what the safe speed is for your car.

If Conditions Are Anything Less Than Ideal 

If you have ‘less than ideal’ circumstances, then you’ll need to decide what the safe speed is for your particular situation. Here are just a few examples of what ‘less than ideal’ conditions can mean:

  • Confusing, damaged, faded or missing signs on residential streets
  • Roads not salted or plowed in winter weather
  • Blind curves, intersections, or driveways and poorly banked roads
  • Lack of traffic signals or poorly placed signals
  • Improperly graded curves and uneven shoulders
  • Poor landscaping and vision obstructions
  • Overly bright lights or lack of nighttime lighting
  • Lack of appropriate road markings
  • Inappropriate road materials
  • Potholes on city streets and residential streets
  • Low bridges or incorrect overhead bridge markings
  • Broken guardrails
  • Adverse weather
    • sun glare
    • rain
    • fog
    • extreme wind
    • snow
    • frost
    • ice
    • black ice
    • reduced traction
  • Debris on the roadway
  • Construction
  • Animals on or near the roadway
  • Gravel or dirt road
  • Encountering a snowplow or emergency vehicle, pedestrian, large truck, or jogger, maybe a motorcycle
  • Pooling water on the road
  • Children near the road
  • Wet leaves on the road
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals
  • Porcupine on the road
  • Driver inexperience
  • Poor vehicle, poor tire condition on vehicle or vehicle issues
  • Or a narrow roadway

Deciding The Best Speed Limit For Residential Streets

  • Time of day
  • If you’re driving at 4:00 AM through a narrow residential street, do you think there will be many children near the road that may pose as a potential hazard, car doors opening, people walking around?
    • Will there be more potential of seeing an animal at this time, such as a raccoon, skunk or house cat?
    • If you do see people near the road or getting out of a vehicle, what type of people do you think they are? Where did they just come from if they get home at 4:00 AM? Work? The bar? The hospital? The airport?
  • Driver experience and condition

    • Does the driver have experience with a particular condition? If not, is it wise to go a little slower than a more experienced driver?
    • Is the driver going through an attack of hay fever and is sneezing a lot?
  • Do you know what kind and type of tires you have and if they are appropriate for whatever road or weather circumstances you may encounter?
  • Have you checked the pressures? Are you driving a front wheel drive or all-wheel drive? Did you just borrow your friends’ car and know absolutely nothing about it?

What speed makes sense for residential streets?

I think what your coach said are good general guidelines for a narrow, residential street. The other thing I think about narrow residential streets is that in real life, people don’t drive there for miles and miles and miles (er, kilometers).

They usually turn into such an area off a highway or main road and then stop when they get to the destination; often parallel parking or possibly reversing into some driveway-type place. 

So it doesn’t make much sense to speed up to 50 km/hr if you know you’ll be stopping in 1/2 a block, or in terms of the pizza guy/gal; who has to drive a bit slowly to look for the correct address.

Here’s a road I would personally drive 30 km/hr or 40 km/hr maximum

Even though the speed limit may technically be 50 km/hr max here. This road is seriously skinny

residential streets

Residential Streets: One example in Burnaby

This road in Burnaby – Albert Street – has a speed limit of 40 km/hr at all times; used to be 50 km/hr. The change was probably due to increased road users of all types.

It is just one block north of Hastings Street which is a busy place, so it is a bit crowded, and with the parked cars there is not a lot of extra wiggling room for someone to open a car door, or walk around near their car, and clearly there are visibility issues.

How many ‘hidden stop signs‘ can you see (or not see) in this picture? Is it a coincidence that the vehicle seen driving on the road is driving on the yellow line? Why is the vehicle in that position?

residential street burnaby

When I zoomed WAY in, I found this

parked cars

Can we surmise this driver went around the parked vehicle a bit that maybe the driver just exited, or is about to?

There is always a reason for things; we just can’t always tell what it is.

Only About Parked Cars on Residential Streets?

However.. Don’t just think about parked cars on both sides; as it’s possible to have slightly wider road with parked cars on both sides where it may be quite appropriate to travel at 50 km/hr and you may even be impeding/annoying other traffic if you don’t.

Residential Streets – 16th Avenue in Burnaby

There are cars on both sides and it appears to be residential, but is it still okay to go 50 km/hr here?

I know I go 50 km/hr when I drive on this one and I feel it is the right thing. There is simply more space between the parked cars and the moving cars compared to the previous road.

Burnaby road 16th ave

2) Residential Streets Speed Limit Question

  • Technically, if you are driving at 51 km/hr or 52 km/hr you are breaking the law. And technically speaking, if you break the law on a road test, then you fail the road test.
  • Some examiners are more strict than others, but I would recommend playing it safe; although you are human, aren’t you? 52 km/hr for 3 seconds out of the entire road test or even here-or-there would probably be forgiven I would like to imagine
  • Some examiners are very strict about this, even though when most people are in real life, it is kind of normal that they will at times go 51 or 52 or even 55 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone without consequence and/or to ‘blend in’ with some type of traffic flow that is happening.
  •  Not to mention I have never heard of anybody getting a speeding ticket for anything under 60 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone (not saying that you should drive at 59 km/hr, though; just that police don’t see you or anyone else as a major threat to society for driving 5-ish km over the speed limit).
  • For the road test though, and especially as an inexperienced driver, you do need to show the examiner that you know what the speed limit actually is and are willing to respect it. So I would recommend trying to drive at 50 km/hr whenever appropriate, instead of 53 km/hr (illegal) or 47 km/hr (why?)
  • Driving too slowly for no reason can be problematic as well in terms of traffic collecting behind you.
  • And all ‘appropriate speed’ discussions aside, it is good to be able to show the examiner that you know how to control the vehicle at an even, constant speed and that you have acquired enough experience to be able to multitask in a way; that you can ‘feel’ what 50 km/hr is, so that you don’t have to check your speedometer every 3 seconds on the road test, so that you can actually keep your eyes on, well, the road (per se).. and things like that.

Question: How Do I Know I’m in a Residential Speed Zone?

Hi there! I have a question: what else besides houses on both sides makes a residential area, residential (30km)? I’m having issues with that. Does the yellow line in between make the difference ? Meaning if it has the yellow line is a 50km if not is 30km? Does this make sense? Some residential areas don’t have the 30km sign I hope you can help me with this.

residential speed zone

What’s The Speed Limit?

The speed limit in the city/town is always 50 km/hr, unless something else is posted.

This way, cities don’t have to post a 50 km/hr sign on every road that is 50 km/hr. There are enough distractions already, and, we tend to have more roads in towns where the speed limit is 50 than those that aren’t, I guess.

Remember that 50 km is the Maximum for good conditions though. So, you can always decide to go slower if you feel it’s a good idea for any reason. 

A Bit of News For Residential Streets In Rossland, BC

This is all true unless you’re living in Rossland, where it seems they’ve recently changed their residential normal speed limit to 30 km instead of 40 km, and school drop-off zone to just 15 km/hr

Based on a staff recommendation at  Regular Meeting of Council on June 22, 2015, and in response to years of  safety concerns brought to Council by many residents,  Rossland City Council has recently reduced the city’s local road speed limit from 40 km/hr. to 30 km/hr. in order to increase street safety for all residents.  Crews will shortly be placing a “3” over the “4” on the existing signs to alert drivers to the new 30 km/hr. speed limit.  The speed limit reduction contributes to the traffic calming effort in Rossland and complements the promotion of walking and cycling on streets without raised sidewalks and designated cycling lanes.

Residents will also note that school drop-of/pick-up areas will be signed for 15 km/hr. during drop-off/pick-up times.  This location and time specific speed limit alerts drivers to respect the use of the full street width  by pedestrians.  Flanking blocks around schools will also be posted at 20 km/hr. during school hours.   Two distinct areas of Rossland, on the west end of McLeod and the Nickleplate neighbourhood, will see new speed limits, to 20 km/hr. as well due to the streets’ narrow widths.

The city’s new 30 km/hr. general speed limit adds roughly 30 seconds to a 1-km ride, meaning that nearly all residents can reach a provincial highway in 1 – 3 minutes.  Residents are therefore encouraged to slow down to be compliant with the new speed limit prior to the posting of the signs.  The RCMP will also be monitoring speeds on Rossland’s streets after the new signs are posted later this month.


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada.

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