Morinville green lights new traffic rules
Bikes, snow removal get easier ride
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 07:15 pm
Snow shovelers and cyclists will get an easier ride thanks to some last-minute changes to Morinville’s new traffic bylaw.
Council approved third reading of its new traffic safety bylaw on Jan. 22 after extensive debate.
The bylaw regulates everything from trucks to toboggans and introduces many new rules to the road. School buses will now be required to use their flashing warning lights when loading and unloading students, for example, and cyclists under the age of 18 can now be fined $50 if they’re caught without a helmet.
“This is a very large bylaw,” said chief administrative officer Debbie Oyarzun, introducing it in council, and it will likely need further tweaks in the months to come.
“I think it’s going to be a work in progress,” she said.
Administration thoroughly reworked the law’s rules for bikes on sidewalks.
Instead of permitting bikes of only a certain wheel size to ride on sidewalks, the law now permits any “wheeled apparatus” to be on a sidewalk so long as it is not used in a “reckless manner” that, in the opinion of a peace officer, would cause a risk to pedestrians, said David Schaefer, the town’s director of corporate operations.
“Wheeled apparatus” includes everything from skateboards to public works vehicles.
“The purpose (of the law) is to deal with the safety of the public,” Schaefer said, “rather than to measure the size of a wheel.”
While the previous draft restricted bikes to paths marked for cycling and roads, the latest version allows them on any path unless it’s explicitly marked as a no-bike zone. Bike users under 18 must now wear a helmet or face a $50 fine, while “reckless” riders on a sidewalk can similarly be fined $50.
While some councillors wanted to explicitly define “reckless” behaviour, Schaefer said doing so would make the law inflexible and open to legal challenge.
Peace officers also have to justify their tickets to administration, council and the courts, Oyarzun said.
“The standard operating practices for enforcement officers – the manual – is this thick,” she added, with her fingers about an inch apart, and tells officers how to spot “reckless” behaviour.
The bylaw’s rules for election signs are largely unchanged from second reading, despite concerns from Coun. David Pattison that it bans them from intersections.
Signs “should not distract the driver in any way,” Schaefer said, and signs near crosswalks could distract drivers from pedestrians.
Said signs could now be up to five metres squared in size instead of three, he added, to better reflect industry standards.
Residents will now have 72 hours to clear their sidewalks of snow instead of 24, said Schaefer, to give them more flexibility.
Coun. Lisa Holmes suggested that this might be too lenient – owners would effectively have a week to clear snow, as they would get a warning after 72 hours and a ticket 72 hours after the warning.
“Eighty dollars for some people is not a lot of money,” Holmes said, citing the fine for this part of the bylaw, and snow-filled walkways are a problem for seniors.
Residents get both the cost of a ticket and snow removal if they fail to clear their walks on time, Schaefer said (the town clears the walkway if the owner doesn’t). This approach serves to educate homeowners while keeping sidewalks clear.
Coun. Sheldon Fingler pointed out that the section of the bylaw that bans residents from clearing snow off a sidewalk onto a road makes it impossible for downtown businesses to clear their walks, as they have no spare land on which to pile snow.
“They have nowhere else to put it except for Main Street,” he said.
Properties with zero lot lines had similar issues.
Administration agreed, and added a clause saying that such an act was allowed “when no other option is available.”
Administration plans to publicize this bylaw through open houses later this year, Oyarzun said.
Copies of the bylaw will soon be posted at www.morinville.ca.