An Ainsworth business owner says he’s at his wit’s end trying to get drivers to slow down through the community.
Although the 80 km/h speed limit on Highway 31 drops to 50 through town, Glen Weber of the Ainsworth Motel says many people fly by at 70 or more — and he even clocked someone doing 93.
“I would say 90 per cent of all traffic going through is speeding,” he told the Star. “Fifty per cent are over 70. One guy was almost a blur.”
Weber bases his observations on an electronic reader board provided by the Ministry of Highways this summer that records and displays the speed of approaching vehicles.
He says traffic did slow down a bit during the first week, but eventually people resumed their old habits. He adds the problem has persisted during the 4½ years he’s lived there, and he’s particularly concerned for kids catching the school bus.
“If we’ve got kids crossing the highway it’s terrible,” he says. “A young family moved into town this spring and they’re petrified to walk to the bus because people are flying by.” (The bus stops at the community hall in the morning and in front of the motel in the afternoon.)
Weber says he’s talked to the RCMP, Ministry of Highways, and MLA Michelle Mungall, but “it just seems like we’re spinning our wheels.”
Speed bumps and a crosswalk have both been suggested but ruled out. Failing that, Weber thinks the biggest help would be more police enforcement: “If we have the RCMP here more often, people are going to start slowing down.”
However, while Kaslo RCMP Cst. Doug Robinson acknowledges the concerns of Ainsworth and Mirror Lake residents, he says the area is regularly patrolled.
“It’s been a problem area because the residents keep calling us,” he says. “The people in both communities are relentless in their pursuit to slow these guys down.”
Robinson says he understands their frustrations, but the accident volume in the area is low.
“Every day I’m working, I’m down there at least once. We’re not getting real high speeds. We’re getting 60, 62. Once in a while someone will come roaring through at 80.”
Robinson says whether a ticket is issued depends on several factors, including weather, traffic flow, and time of day. He adds their highway patrol regularly sets up roadblocks.
Ministry of Highways engineer Ryan Oakley says Ainsworth’s situation isn’t unique, and it can be difficult to get motorists to slow down in a community bisected by a highway. However, the ministry has a few things at its disposal, including the speed reader board as well as signage. Six new speed zone signs were installed last year, three in each direction.
“We’re aware of the particulars in Ainsworth and doing everything we can to help out with the tools we’ve got,” he says.
Oakley says while the reader board collected data on vehicle speeds, it needs to be verified before it can be released.
He agreed with Weber that enforcement is key, given the already low speed limit. But he isn’t convinced road construction along the bluffs south of town is making things worse.
Weber suggested motorists stuck in the line-up try to make up for lost time by speeding, or try to get to the area sooner to see if they can make it through without stopping.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say the average speed of a motorist goes significantly up just because they’ve been in a big line,” Oakley said. “In fact, generally it can slow things down. We rarely look at it as a safety concern that when you release queuing traffic they go like crazy. It doesn’t really happen like that.”