Town of Blackfalds brakes on speed limit reductions

The two 30 km/h playground zones on Womacks Rd. in Blackfalds will be amalgamated with the removal of end zone signs, such as this one pictured at the corner of Womacks Rd. and Leung Rd. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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A widespread reduction of speed limits, save arterial roads, within the Town of Blackfalds has been stalled.

Last Tuesday, council deferred final reading of proposed changes to the Traffic Bylaw, which primarily centre on a speed limit reduction from 50 km/h to 40 km/h within the town, unless otherwise posted.

The decision followed a public hearing on the proposed bylaw, where 18 residents expressed their opposition to the speed limit reductions via letter and in person. Concerns ranged from the potential for traffic and frustration for drivers to become worse in Blackfalds, and disbelief lowering the speed limit on residential roads would solve speeding in town.

One such resident was Shane Hanson, who said he felt such a change targetted the wrong group of people in the community.

“From my conversations with people in town, the problem with speeding is on arterial roads..Our modern communities are designed in a way….that you can’t get up to 50 km/h on residential streets. There’s parking on both sides – it’s very hard,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is this isn’t going to slow people that are speeding down. All it’s going to be is essentially another tax on the law-abiding citizens of our community.”

Hanson added he took issue with a U.K. study being used to support a speed reduction in the community, rather than one done locally, however, former Blackfalds RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken Morrison, who is now Emergency Management & Protective Services Manager for the town, confirmed a reduction in speed would help bring down speeds for the majority of drivers in the community.

“I agree lowering the speed limit isn’t going to necessarily slow down those people who are already speeding at large speeds, however, those that are doing 60 km/h, itll bring them down to 50 km/h,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the idea was to make the streets safer for young children in the community – that’s what Policing Committee talked about. We’ve had some close calls at intersections and parked cars throughout the community. I think the speed limit is a good start.”

Still, some councillors had reservations about reducing the speed limit, including Coun. Will Taylor, who said Policing Committee and law enforcement would have a certain perspective on the issue, while the public would have another.

Additionally, he said council seemed to be moving very quickly on reducing speed without looking at other measures to improve safety in the community.

Coun. Jamie Hoover echoed similar thoughts, saying he had concerns with how they are applying the speed reduction.

“I do agree there is a need in much of our community to lower speed limits, but I’m having difficulty in how it’s being applied,” he said.

“I think we need to put a little more time into this, refine it and get it right for our community, because this does impact every single person.”

Others disagreed.

Mayor Richard Poole called the 50 km/h speed limit “ancient” and said it was time for the community to take a lead, as others have done in the province, in reducing speed limits.

Coun. Laura Svab was very focused on the safety aspect.

“‘We’re a young community. I’ve talked to a lot of people in our community and a lot are in favour of the 40 km/h just because of safety,” she said. “I’d rather not have a child or senior or anyone die at 50 km/h when we can make a decision and save a life today.”

Ultimately, however, council voted 4-3 in favour of deferring third reading, with Poole, Svab, and Coun. Rebecca Stendie opposed.

Changes are expected to return to council for third reading following a further look at the bylaw at Standing Committee.

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