How fast is too fast? The Thompson Avenue dilemma

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
July 15th, 2010

How fast is too fast on Thompson Avenue? If you’re asking a police officer, it’s the standard 50 kilometers an hour. If you’re asking the folks responsible for the yellow and black cautionary speed signs along that road, it’s 40 kilometers an hour. If you ask anyone who lives or bikes down the lower Rossland thoroughfare, has kids, has had to attempt an often treacherous backing out of their driveway, has walked or even driven down the street, the answer is likely far less than either of these speeds.

The busy route has long been the scene of close calls by cars often doing no more than the legal speed limit. Driving that narrow street with all the cars parked along it and an active network of bikes, kids, pets and wild animals running around is a challenge. Maintaining the speed limit can often feel like running the gauntlet–a gauntlet where success is simply getting where you’re going without killing something or someone.

So just what can be done to make Thompson safer? This spring there have been several reports of guerrilla-style enforcement with motorcyclists chasing down  and then handing out verbal warnings to speeders, folks yelling at passersby, and in one unconfirmed incident the paintballing of a repeat offender’s vehicle.

This week, the matter came up at council and staff were instructed to perhaps pursue some solutions. No formal motion was made; however, councillor Laurie Charlton, during his report, brought up the long-standing safety issue and offered a solution.

“I’d like to suggest our staff engineer and works manager investigate the possibility of purchasing some removable speed bumps. They are available and are in common use. They are not all that expensive, and they could be installed in appropriate locations along Thompson with appropriate signage to try and slow the traffic down and then be removed for the winter for the snowplows. An alternative to that might be the installation of some stop signs along Thompson Avenue, but that’s not perhaps as good a solution as the speed bumps.”

The idea of speed bumps intrigued some councillors and kicked off a discussion on potential ways to lower speeds on the street.

It was noted by CAO Victor Kumar that the City does indeed have the right to lower speed limits on its streets, with the exception of Columbia Avenue as a provincial highway.  The rule for residential streets is that the speed limit is 50kph unless otherwise posted.

Lowering speed limits in areas with safety concerns has been done before in Rossland. In particular, the steep turn on Upper Washington Street, just above the high school, has been lowered to 40kph.

Councilor Jill Spearn suggested (somewhat in jest) that she’d prefer a few stop signs along the street rather than have to regularly drive over speed bumps, temporary or otherwise.

“There’s no reason you couldn’t throw in a couple stop signs. I don’t want to spend my whole time going over speed bumps. Yes, it will slow traffic down, but why should I have to suffer because there are a few idiots out there going way too fast?”

Another smoother and potentially less suspension-wearing solution was suggested by the mayor.

“I wonder if the RCMP still has the radar camera with the sign that we could borrow. If you’re concerned about people speeding they set it up and it shows people’s speeds as they go by. If it is terribly fast, they make a note of your license plate and send an advisory to the RCMP. People would learn pretty fast then.”

While no formal motion was made, staff will take these suggestions under advisement and look at the situation. In the meantime, if you’re over the perceived safe limit on Thompson, be sure to keep you heads up for flying projectiles, paintballs or residents on motorcycle patrol. Or, better yet, just slow down.

What would you do to make the road safer on Thompson Avenue? Do you support speed bumps, additional stop signs, speed cameras or perhaps all of the above? Post your ideas as a comment to this story.


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