Ingrid Haines and four of her five children

A road map to safer streets

District of Kent Council deliberates how to stop speeding on Agassiz streets

Ingrid Haines wants the speeding to stop. Now.

Haines is tired of the “Agassiz Speedway” out front of her house at the corner of McDonald and Vimy Road and she wants something done about it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Haines, her husband, their five children and their two cats live in what should be an idyllic neighbourhood. Beautiful views, Friendly neighbours and farmland just steps away. But, out front of their house is a long, straight stretch of 50 km/ hour roadway that runs between the Haig Highway and the Agassiz-Rosedale Highway. And she sees a constant race of reckless drivers who treat it like a raceway.

One of her children, Caleb, already had a close call with a driver. Last summer, he and his brother were out on their bikes. Caleb had a bike trailer and was pulled off to the side of Vimy Road while he waited for his brother. All of a sudden, a car came racing up the road. He tried to get off his bike but didn’t make it in time. The driver swerved around his trailer and ended up knocking Caleb over. The woman stopped briefly to ask if he was OK then drove off. His mother says while he wasn’t injured, it could have been much worse.

So when a late-night truck drove at breakneck speed down McDonald road last month, Haines finally had enough. She fired off a letter to the District of Kent, asking for something to be done.

“I have been concerned about the fast driving vehicles on McDonald / Vimy Road since I moved here over five years ago,” she wrote. “If something isn’t done about this, someone is going to be badly hurt or is going to die and I cannot live with that.”

She suggests that speed bumps would be an appropriate solutions well as stop sings on all three corners of Vimy / McDonald Roads.

The letter led to a lively discussion at the last Kent Council meeting, addressing Haines’ concerns as well as the increased traffic on roads such as Mountainview and Fir. Councillors debated between traffic calming devices like speed bumps versus more RCMP enforcement.

Coun. Duane Post suggested it’s time to have a look at speed bumps. His view was that speed bumps could deter speeding 24 hours a day whereas more enforcement cannot be done on all roads at all hours of the day.

“It’s time we addressed the situation in a more obvious way” said Post.

However, Mayor John Van Laerhoven said the problem with speed bumps is they deter emergency vehicles from quick access when needed, a concern when there are several care homes along those roads.

“They’re as negative to street safety as they could possibly be a positive for speed,” said Van Laehoven.

Any sorts of infrastructure changes to add traffic calming devices is “quite an expense” to consider as well, added Mick Thiessen, director of engineering services. He listed other concerns for traffic calming devices, including residents’ concern about having to go over the bumps every day, issues of snow removal, increased traffic noise, traffic divergence into other neighbourhoods and, as mentioned, quick access for emergency vehicles.

Thiessen also discussed Chilliwack’s moratorium on new traffic calming devices, instead focusing on measures such as Speedwatch and a neighbourhood toolkit to encourage safe driving called ‘Hey Neighbour, Please Slow Down’.

The other option bandied about the table was more RCMP enforcement. CAO Wallace Mah reported the last Council increased the local RCMP force by one member and added that an additional RCMP member would cost the District an estimated $150,000 per year. However, Mah said that when provincial highway patrol members have come to town, the District gets complaints from citizens of too much enforcement. Van Laerhoven said the other problem with RCMP enforcement focused on one area of town is that offenders simply move to another road.

Coun. Sylvia Pranger expressed sympathy with the Haines family and said locals have asked RCMP for “a long time” for more enforcement on speeding.

“It needs to be a priority for them,” said Pranger, to have visibility on our local streets.

Pranger suggested they start looking at preventative programs such as Speedwatch.

“I don’t think we have the option of doing nothing,” said Pranger.

Darcey Kohuch, director of development services, reported that in other communities, RCMP have encouraged people to write down license plate numbers of offending cars. That allows RCMP to contact the driver and let them know they are aware of their speeding.

Council voted all in favour of a motion to advertise for Speedwatch volunteers, to seek RCMP comments about preventative measures and to investigate Chilliwack’s Slow Down Neighbour program.

As for Haines, she just knows that, whatever is decided, something needs to happen.

“I’m fighting for my kid’s safety,” she says.

Where do you see the problem areas in town and what methods do you think will work to slow down drivers? Write us a letter to the editor at news@ahobserver.com