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Town of Banff seeking final feedback on townwide 30-km/h speed limit

Banff town council has passed first and second reading of a bylaw that proposes a 30-km/h town-wide speed limit, but has postponed third and final reading until January 10 to give residents a chance to write letters or address council before it makes a final decision.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff put the brakes on implementing a town-wide 30-km/h speed limit this week in a favour of public feedback.

On Monday (Dec. 6), council gave first and second reading to a new roads, sidewalks and trails use bylaw, which includes a town-wide 30-km/h speed zone. Third reading, however, was postponed until Jan. 10, 2022 to give the public a chance to have one last say on the matter.

“The community may react… I’d still like to see this come back to get more community feedback,” said Councillor Hugh Pettigrew.

In June, the governance and finance committee unanimously directed administration to return to a future meeting of council with a proposed amending bylaw to include a 30-km/h town-wide speed limit.

The proposed bylaw also eliminates exclusionary zones for skateboards, allowing them in places where bicycles are permitted to reflect the municipality’s support of active modes of transportation.

The bylaw also includes language changes to reflect the evolving nature of human-propelled, non-motorized vehicles being used throughout the townsite.

Many other cities and towns across Canada are currently reducing speed limits, including Airdrie and Cochrane with 30km/hr speed limits in all residential zones and Toronto and Vancouver both adopting 30km/hr speed limits for residential and collector roadways.

Town of Banff officials say there is plenty of research showing reduced speed limits on roads shared with cyclists and pedestrians can also lead to a mode shift to more active transportation because people feel safer.

Amanda Arbuckle, manager of recreation service for the Town of Banff, said lower speeds can also lead to a reduction in carbon emissions as lower vehicle speed means less carbon dioxide emissions.

She said it can also mean a reduction in noise, noting that the noise of 10 cars travelling at 30km/hr is equivalent to the noise that five cars travelling at 50km/hr make.

“There is ample evidence showing that reducing speed limits reduces injuries and fatalities for both vehicle passengers and pedestrians,” she said.

Councillor Chip Olver supported second reading of the bylaw, noting she agrees a 30-km/h speed limit is safer.

“According to the World Health Organization, 30 km/h is the maximum safe speed to reduce catastrophic conflicts between cars and cyclists,” she said.

“I think school zones have had the right idea for many years; we see reduced speed in school zones and it’s because it’s much safer.”

That said, Coun. Olver wanted to give the public a chance to provide feedback on the proposal before moving to third and final reading.

She said there may need to be some areas of exception, such as steep hilly roads like Mountain Avenue as one example.

“There’s downhill sections of the roads like Mountain Avenue where vehicles already have to sit on their brakes to do 40-km/h; they would have to do even more braking to come down and bikes could very very well pass them,” she said.

“When we talked about this in June, I had a comment from someone that when they’re going uphill by the corner by Kootenay in winter, if you’re going too slow, the tires can lose grip and vehicles won’t be able to make it up, that a few buses have also been stuck there.”

Mayor Corrie DiManno was in favour of a town-wide 30km/h speed limit, noting driving fast in the four-square-kilometre townsite doesn’t really save any time.

She said the move to 30-km/h is about making the community safer for people in cars or on bicycles, skateboards or scooters.

“This may sound dramatic, but it could save a life, and this is about safety and it outweighs urgency for me,” she said.

“We know the data when it comes to if there is a collision and you’re going 30-km/h, there’s less risk of fatality and there’s less risk of injury.”

DiManno said the research is showing it can also help people shift to more active modes of transportation if they feel safe, noting the municipality strives for the highest levels of active transportation in the country.

“We need to be better at creating this atmosphere that really fosters these of active modes we want to see in our community. I believe this can help create a safer, more comfortable environment,” she said.

“We also know when there’s less cars on the roads when we do make that mode shift, there’s less congestion and there’s less GHG emissions.”

Councillor Ted Christensen voiced concern about making sure there is enforcement when people using non-motorized transportation like bikes and skateboards break the rules.

“I’d be a lot more comfortable progressing with this if I heard bylaw enforcement’s comment on this,” he said.

“I must also suggest, that considering the conflicts that we’ve had had in the past with non-motorized vehicles on sidewalks, I would seek public consultation on this matter before moving ahead.”

Silvio Adamo, the director of protective services for the Town of Banff, said the top priorities of late have been COVID-19 and traffic safety given the limited staff within the municipal enforcement department.

When a bylaw officer does see an infraction, he said they can take steps to remedy the situation by issuing a warning or a violation ticket.

“It’s obviously not something we spend a significant amount of time on given all the other priorities we have,” he said, noting council could direct otherwise during service review.

“It’s enforced when we see it, but typically not proactively at this point.”

In reply, Coun. Christensen said he was not insinuating that bylaw officers weren’t doing a proper job, but he’d like to see stronger enforcement to address some of the concerns he’s hearing from residents.

“I would like to address that in service review if that’s the time,” he said.