It’s a crispy, cold morning in Agassiz, with the sun just peaking over Mt. Cheam to cast some light on Mountainview Road. Three men take about five minutes to set up and calibrate a Speed Watch station, and it only takes a few more minutes for the first few cars to drive by.
For a half hour, almost all clock in at a safe and reasonable speed, well below the limit. The speeds read out on the digital board at the roadside, and the few who are crossing the limit quickly correct themselves. Not one driver was caught excessively speeding — an infraction that will trigger a formal letter in the mail.
It’s not exactly a trap. The bright orange vests and caution signs protecting the volunteers and equipment are easily seen down the straight stretch.
But the idea on this particular day is awareness and compliance, not enforcement, says Mike Weightman, ICBC’s Road Safety Coordinator. He’s happy to see the quick compliance, glad that the set up is working as intended.
He has been watching this newspaper’s coverage of the ongoing issues on the route that connects the north side of the Agassiz Rosedale bridge to the Lougheed Hwy. Mountainview is the longest stretch of that route, and a dream for those looking to knock a few seconds off their trip by putting the pedal to the metal. The number of speeders has brought up lively discussions in council, talk among neighbours, and even spurred on a special committee to tackle the problem.
And then in February, a little girl was hit by a car on Ashton Road, sparking more debate and outcry. While the driver was not reportedly speeding, residents are looking for ways to discourage drivers from speeding along the route.
Speed Watch is one solution. Run by volunteers, the program has died out in Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs over recent years. Two sets are available to the communities, but because there were no volunteers, one of those was redirected to a community that did people willing to run the program.
“I can get those back for this community,” Weightman said, if more volunteers step up. So far, two have.
Blake Darel, from Agassiz, and Richard Zetchus from Harrison Hot Springs are now operating the Speed Watch program for the area. Mountainview Road was chosen as a starting location due to the recent complaints of speeders.
“There was an appetite here for it,” Weightman said.
The program moves where it is needed, and operates based on availability of volunteers. It costs the municipalities nothing, and is overseen by ICBC.
Darel and Zetchus went through training with ICBC to run the equipment. While Darel saw it as an opportunity to gain volunteer hours, Zetchus said he wants people to slow down.
“The boys (RCMP) can’t be everywhere,” he said. “It’s up to us to help.”
While the recent set up was not an enforcement day, there certainly are days that are held in conjunction with the RCMP.
In those cases, an officer would be stationed further down the road, ready to catch speeders either ignoring the Speed Watch station, or assuming they’ve passed detection.
Weightman knows the issues in Agassiz well.
“I get complaints on Pioneer Avenue a lot,” he said. In his view, traffic calming devices that would impede first responders should not be considered for the route along Mountainview.
“Your fire chief is bang on about response time,” he said, referring to a comment made by Chief Wayne Dyer that calming devices could impede fire trucks attempting to get on scene to a fire.
Weightman is hoping more volunteers will come to the table to work with him and the RCMP in finding a better solution — slowing drivers down. Volunteers must be at least 19 years old to
For more information, phone the Agassiz RCMP station at 604-796-2211 or the District of Kent at 604-796-2235.