Victoria city council will consider a motion Thursday that looks to “phase out commercial horse-drawn carriage operations on city streets by 2023.”

The motion from Coun. Ben Isitt also suggests the city explore the feasibility of electronic carriages, or “e-carriages,” in their place.

“This proposal responds to long-standing concerns for greater safety on local roads,” said Isitt. “Specifically, horse-drawn carriages are an outmoded form of transportation in our 21st-century city.”

Isitt wants Victoria to amend its strategic plan for 2019-2022 to include a new proposal for next year that would see the city create regulations to have horse-drawn carriages off city streets.

The motion says staff would provide adequate notice to operators, employees and members of the public. 

The two-part motion also asks for collaboration between industry and the city to look into the feasibility of e-carriages “to provide ongoing opportunities for tourism, employment and economic development through innovative deployment of electric-powered vehicles for hire.”

Victoria’s horse-carriage industry is aware of Isitt’s motion and is firing back. 

“It’s disheartening to see that Coun. Isitt has put forward a motion that ignores facts, evidence, the BC SPCA recommendations and the voices of the public majority,” said Donna Friedlander, the owner and operator of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. 

Last year following a high-profile horse-drawn carriage incident near Ogden Point, the BC SPCA wrote a letter recommending Victoria council prohibit the operation of horse-drawn carriages and trolleys on Victoria city streets, recommending they stick to parks. 

The incident took place in May 2018 and was filmed and posted online. During the roughly five-minute video, two horses could be seen lying on the ground after a bus hit their carriage.

“In response to the BC SPCA letter, the industry has made several recommendations to the city seeking opportunities for enhancements to route planning, signage, and infrastructure,” said Friedlander.

“In addition, the industry continues to proactively implement operational refinements focused on safety and care.”

The BC SPCA is also weighing in on the proposed ban. 

“I think council has a lot of work ahead of them,” said Erika Paul, an animal protection officer with the BC SPCA. 

Paul met with city staff and horse-drawn carriage companies last summer following the Ogden Point incident. 

Paul says the BC SPCA has been in talks with the city and stakeholders and says a ban would take time to implement. 

“Normally there’s a lot of research and a lot of public input,” Paul said. “There’s a lot of homework before a decision like this is made by council.”

The BC SPCA also wanted Victoria council to limit horse-drawn vehicles to one horse per vehicle, and recommended additional standards for the carriage tour industry, including the implementation of standard operating procedures and emergency management plans.

“The proposal to modernize tourist transport is aimed at increasing safety for all road users including people driving private vehicles and riding bikes, in the context of increasing congestion and conflicts on local roads," Isitt said in his motion. 

The motion will be discussed by Victoria council at a committee of the whole meeting Thursday morning.