By Steve Hubrecht
Speeding in Invermere is causing concerns among local residents. Again.
The matter has come up repeatedly over the past several years. The latest was during last week’s Invermere council meeting, with the southernmost stretch of 13th Avenue (which becomes Westside Road) the spot that’s leaving a few people unsettled.
Invermere residents Kathleen O’Neill and Buzz Harmsworth spoke about the issue, with both pointing out that as 13th Avenue progresses past or close by several schools and a playground the speed limit flip-flops between 50 kilometres per hour and 30 kilometres per hour multiple times.
“It is very confusing. It’s (the speed limit) very dynamic along that street. I’ve lived here 10 years and I’m still confused when I drive there,” said O’Neill.
Harmsworth echoed her sentiments and noted that the District of Invermere’s own electronic speed monitor sign also appears confused, since it indicates the speed limit is 50 kilometres at a time when it should be 30 kilometres.
As a point of clarity, he noted that school zone speed limits are supposed to be in effect from dawn to dusk.
“I know I’m driving the right speed, but I think I’m wrong when I have six cars piled up behind me. I can feel the effect of their feelings on the back of my neck,” said Harmsworth. “But I see the kids walking to school and I try to do my part . . . do they (other drivers) realize it’s daybreak to dark (for the school zone speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour)?”
Harmsworth proposed making the speed limit consistent along 13th Avenue, asking council “is there no way we can make it standard?”
Invermere councillor Gerry Taft was not entirely convinced, noting that since Eileen Madson Primary School (EMP) is actually on 15th Avenue, one street over from 13th Avenue, “it’s not technically a school zone” on the parts of 13th Avenue near EMP.
“I think making the entire street 30 (kilometres per hour) from dawn to dusk is excessive,” said Taft.
He also mentioned the playground, which is part of the Westside subdivision. Taft lives in Westside and takes his kids to that playground.
“I think it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure kids are in the playground and not running down the street,” said Taft.
He also pointed out that “the road is fairly straight and I think people will drive faster than 30 (kilometres per hour) no matter what the sign says.”
But Taft did concede that there needs to be some balance, and that the current situation is “a bit weird.”
“You’ve only got to run one kid over, and you’ll remember it — we’ll all remember it — forever,” pressed Harmsworth.
Invermere Mayor Al Miller said it would be worth checking with the Columbia Valley RCMP to get their insights into the situation.
Back in 2014 and 2015, the EMP Parent Advisory Council (PAC) lobbied hard to get the District of Invermere to establish a dedicated, separate walking and cycling path for kids to use along 20th Street, which connects 13th Avenue and the back parking lot of EMP. At the time, the PAC outlined that many EMP students (age 5 to 8) walk or bike along 13th Avenue and 20th Street to get to school. The PAC repeatedly emphasized this entails considerable safety concern, since both these streets are quite busy.
The district did create a separated path on 20th Street a year later, but nothing on 13th Avenue.
Years later, in 2022, the district created a dedicated, separate multi-use path for pedestrians, cyclists, and modes of active transport along part of 13th Avenue.
This path, however, does not go all the way south along to 20th Street, leaving a gap of a block or two in which kids cycling or walking to school along 13th Avenue have no dedicated, separate path. In this ‘gap’ kids must use either a lane that is part of the road (demarcated with a painted line, but not separate from the road itself) or travel in the ditch.