By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A new bylaw making its way through Council Chambers will consolidate existing rules while adding a number more. Council gave unanimous first reading to a new Traffic Safety Bylaw Dec. 11, a document that was the result of a comparison with similar bylaws out of St. Albert, Sturgeon County and Spruce Grove, and has subsequently been reviewed by the RCMP, Community Peace Officers, Public Works, the Traffic Safety Committee and the Town’s executive team.
David Schaefer, Morinville’s Director of Corporate Services, said although considerable work has gone into preparing the bylaw, he wants three separate readings on three separate evenings. Schaefer said time needs to be spent reviewing the document with Council to ensure it is something the layperson, who must ultimately follow the rules, will clearly understand. “That’s one of the reasons why we want that time spread in there, so that if there are things that we’ve missed or are unclear, we can go back, make the necessary changes and bring it forward,” he explained.
The bylaw deals with everything from parking cars on Main Street to the appropriate amount of time to park a semi within the community. Schaefer said the bylaw establishes truck routes and will look at where parking will be allowed for trucks, including 24-hour, 72-hour and restricted parking.
Leniency could form part of the bylaw with respect to parking. Schaefer said the Morinville Community Cultural Centre currently does not permit overnight parking, but the proposed bylaw does provide an exception where permission is granted. That could be used at the centre and other facilities on an event-by-event basis.
In addition to dealing with trucks containing dangerous goods and merging the Town’s off road vehicle bylaw into the new document, the proposed bylaw contains some additions.
One significant change deals with school bus warning lights. Schaefer said the Traffic Act provides municipalities with the option of having buses not use their flashing amber lights. “Some bus drivers are doing it, some aren’t because they don’t know,” he said of the present situation in Morinville and possible confusion with practices in other communities. Schaefer said the recommendation contained in the bylaw is to require school bus drivers to use the warning lights except when in a designated school loading and unloading area.
The bylaw will also put something in writing with respect to temporary road closures. “We’ve operated parades and everything else, but we don’t have a formal process for shutting down a road,” Schaefer said. “This will put some legislation in there that kind of formalizes the process.”
Other items added to the proposed bylaw deal with signs, their size, placement, spacing and allowable time on the sidewalk or boulevards. Schaefer said the purpose of adding signage to the proposed bylaw is to match other bylaws, including the Community Standards Bylaw, but also to address safety issues. “The way the bylaw has been laid out is there are going to be signs that require permission and signs that don’t,” he explained. “Signs that need permission are those bigger signs, developmental directional signs. There is some spacing in there. There are maximum heights for view. Those will require consultation and then you will get a permit.” Other types of signs, including A frame signs, will not need a permit but will have some restriction in terms of maximum size and time of placement. “We have tried to incorporate much without getting too onerous,” Schaefer said. “We’ve tried to develop the bylaw in a way to give the Town some guidelines in which we can operate.”
Speed a factor
Speeding is addressed in the proposed bylaw. Section 606 authorizes the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to set and post speed limits on municipal highways.
Speaking to automated traffic enforcement of those speed limits, Schaefer said the last quarterly report showed a significant drop in speeding tickets issued July to September but a significant increase in speeding along 100 Avenue. “What we did see, especially on 100 Avenue, is an increase in speed. The actual flow in speed is 19 kilometres over the posted speed limit, which is pretty significant,” he said, adding approximately 23 per cent of motorists travelling through town were speeding. “If you have a 20 per cent chance of winning a lottery you are probably going to buy a ticket. A 20 per cent chance of speeding – that increases the chances of an accident – very significant.”
Schaefer said automated enforcement is only one tool, a tool to catch speeders. “It doesn’t address uninsured drivers,” he said. “Uninsured drivers are a huge, growing issue, especially with the cost of insurance. They are a big liability on the road. That is where static patrols going out are important with the RCMP and our Community Peace Officers doing it. They look for the seat belts. They look for the uninsured drivers. Seeing those expired licence plates is usually not because someone has forgotten to register their vehicle. It’s because of something else.”
The director of Corporate Operations supports the automated enforcement as a safety measure. “We have a large traffic of big 18-wheelers. The neat thing that photo enforcement does is the ticket goes to the trailer owner,” Schaefer said. “Most companies have a three strike rule. So if they get three tickets, the driver is gone because the company is recognized. There is a huge risk being out on the road. It has allowed industry to also control things while increasing the safety to the community. Pulling an 18-wheeler over on the road not only poses a risk to the officer trying to do the enforcement, but it also causes concerns for all the others on the road.”
Schaefer said another speed-related tool is in the works, a portable speed education sign that tracks data. It is intended the new piece of equipment would be used by the Traffic Safety Committee to gather information about potential problem areas, including residential areas of town.
The Traffic Safety Bylaw is set to come before Council for second reading Jan. 8.