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City of Powell River Council hears traffic survey results

Majority of respondents want city speed limits to be maintained
OPINION SOUGHT: A city-generated survey on speed limits in the municipality showed overwhelmingly that residents do not want speeds reduced, but staff did recommend the purchase of more pole-mounted speed display signs for city streets.

City of Powell River councillors will consider a recommendation to spend up to $17,480 from unappropriated surplus to purchase four pole-mounted speed display signs.

The recommendation was presented to the city’s committee of the whole on July 5, where chief administrative officer Russell Brewer provided a report on speed limits and safer streets.

Brewer said in May 2021, council directed staff to research options about reducing speed limits in the city on non-arterial roads, side roads and neighbourhood streets.

“We decided it would be a good idea to do a survey to help inform that rather than to just drop a report on you with a bunch of recommendations, to get a sense of what people were thinking,” said Brewer. “We put together a survey that ran for about a month earlier this year. We had 1,500 folks look at the site, and we had between 1,375 and 1,475 actually answer questions, depending on the question.”

Brewer said the first couple of questions were pretty straightforward. The first was: would you like to see a blanket speed limit of 40 km/h in the city? There were 1,415 responses, with 8.9 per cent saying yes and 91.1 per cent saying no.

The second was: do you want speed reduction pilots, using a combination of street markings, gateway and speed limit signs to inform drivers about new slow streets initiatives? There were 1,375 responses, with 22.8 per cent saying yes and 77.2 per cent saying no.

The third question was: what would be your preferred limit on non-arterial roads (all roads in the city except Alberni Street, Duncan Street, Joyce Avenue, Manson Avenue and Marine Avenue)? In response, 81 per cent said speed limits should stay the same.

On the 10th question, regarding lowering speed limits along Marine Avenue between Duncan and Alberni streets, 60 per cent said speed limits should stay the same.

Brewer said there was an action item in the city’s strategic plan around advocating for lower limits on Marine and that’s still underway. He said a letter had been sent to the province as recently as last month regarding the initiative, indicating the government had agreed to do some surveys on speeds down there. The letter advocates reducing the speed limit there, according to Brewer.

“It’s been a longstanding desire on the part of council to reduce the speed limit on Marine Avenue between Alberni and Duncan streets,” said Brewer.

Brewer said one feature of the survey was the desire for more enforcement. He said there are challenges with more enforcement, and councillors had heard from Powell River RCMP staff sergeant Rod Wiebe, who indicated that the local detachment is struggling to fill vacancies.

“It makes it all the more challenging to put more effort into enforcement related traffic bylaws,” said Brewer.

There was another request around speed display signs and flashing radar signs, according to Brewer. He said there are now five speed signs permanently established, and there is one sign in rotation at eight locations.

“In discussion with our staff, we thought it would be helpful to have another four signs,” said Brewer. “We could put another two in permanent settings at high priority locations, likely on a couple of locations at Manson Avenue, and put two more in rotation so we can hit some of these high priority locations more frequently.”

Brewer said the ask is for $17,480 for the signs.

“We don’t have strong data to show how effective they are, but anecdotally, talking with folks, they sure seem to be effective,” said Brewer. “It’s probably an effective way and relatively cheap to help create awareness and encourage folks to slow down.”

Doubt, Leishman disappointed

Councillor George Doubt said he wanted to mention the intersection of Alberni Street and Fernwood Avenue, where students going to Edgehill Elementary School often cross. He said there was recently an accident there.

Doubt added that he was disappointed with the results of the survey.

“There’s not a lot of support for reducing the speed limit,” said Doubt. “I like the idea of the flashing signs. I think they get people’s attention.”

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she was also disappointed that the community is so “car culture driven.”

“I’m in favour of the suggestion motion of purchasing some more signs,” said Leishman. “We’re doing a good job starting to implement some traffic calming projects but we need to do more.”

Leishman said active transportation will not be encouraged if people don’t feel safe.

“We have to implement more projects to slow traffic down,” said Leishman. “I purposely slow down on sideroads because there is no need to be driving 50 km/h. We could do a campaign on voluntary speed reduction.”

Leishman asked if the city was to purchase photo radar cameras, would it get the revenue from infractions. Brewer said when there were cameras in place, it was the province’s initiative, although municipalities do share in traffic fine revenue. He said there are privacy implications to the whole process.

The committee voted to send the request for funds for speed signs to council on July 21.

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