Motorists in Blackfalds will officially have to slow down to 40 km/h on residential roadways.
On Tuesday evening, Blackfalds town council gave final approval of the Traffic Bylaw, which includes a 10 km/h speed reduction from 50 km/h to 40 km/h on all roads within the community, except for major arterial roads, school and playground zones.
The issue became a hot topic, with dozens of citizens voicing displeasure on social media and via written letters to council ahead of a public hearing. It also spurred the creation of a Facebook petition, which had 167 signatures collected in two days, asking council to remove the speed reduction from the bylaw, or conduct a plebiscite on the matter during the next municipal election.
Despite the opposition, however, council voted 6-1 in favour of approval, which Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said was all about improving safety within the community.
“We moved forward with this based on reports, and studies we’ve felt were appropriate to our community and even if there was opposition we felt it was important for council to move forward on,” Poole said.
“Everything council does cannot be the most popular. I believe there were a lot of people out there who were in favour of it and chose not to weigh in on it…but I do believe Blackfalds is paving the way for safer communities in general.”
Speed reductions were brought forward as a recommendation from the Policing Committee in September 2018, taking a 2015 S.A.F.E. CPTED assessment which said residents would prefer an overall reduced speed limit, as well as feedback during the 2017 municipal election campaign.
The 40 km/h speed was approved by council in November, after which council decided the change had to be done through a new Traffic Bylaw, along with updates to offence penalties. Final approval was postponed following the public hearing during the last regular meeting and further tweaks were done before receiving final approval.
Among the changes was a decision to revert back to school and playground zone end times to one hour after sunset from 9 p.m., as well as the addition of Cottonwood Drive as one of the streets that will continue to have a 50 km/h speed limit, along with Vista Trail, South St., Broadway Ave. from Womacks Rd. to Twp Rd. 40-0, and Hwy 2A.
Although Poole said council recognizes not everyone was in favour of the reduction, he said there is the ability to look at speed changes again in the future, and the current changes will be monitored, and public feedback will continue to be taken into consideration.
“To me, lowering the speed to 40 km/h will not make a significant difference for any person trying to get out to one of the major streets in our community,” he said. “If it saves even one life in the next year, two years, three years, then I’m quite happy we did it.”
The petition created in opposition to the speed reduction was submitted to council ahead of their Tuesday meeting, however, it did not meet Municipal Government Act (MGA) requirements to be a legally binding petition.
Another petition was also created in support of the speed reduction, according to Poole, which he estimated had at least 50-60 signatures.
The changes are expected to go into effect June 15, 2019. There will be a two-month grace period, where enforcement will focus on education and awareness of changes, rather than ticketing for offences.
To view the bylaw in its entirety, visit www.blackfalds.com.