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Multi-use trails will now have speed limits

The City of Cranbrook is implementing new speed limits on multi-use recreational trails in the city limits.

Council adopted the bylaw at the Monday, May 26 council meeting. The trails will now have a have a 20 km/h maximum speed limit for non-motorized vehicles.

Coun. Bob Whetham said the bylaw is an important step forward.

"It kind of formalizes some of the work already being done," Whetham said.

Motorized vehicles will be restricted, as will equestrian use, as city staff said the intent of the trail has always been pedestrian and cycling use. However, up until now, any restriction on motorized vehicles and horseback riding on the trail could not be enforced by either the city's bylaw officer or the RCMP. The speed limit will be difficult to enforce under the bylaw, staff noted.

"The intent of the posted speed limit is not to ensure that all users stay under the limit, but rather to ensure users are notified that they must exercise a safe limit when near other users," wrote city staff in the report that accompanied the recommendation to city council.

The bylaw will also be accompanied by new signs along the multi-use trails.

The proposed fines mirror ones that the City of Kimberley has in the works for its multi-use trails. The fines will be presented for council consideration in the upcoming review of the Municipal Ticketing Information Systems Bylaw.

The fine for exceeding the speed limit is $50, while posting signs on structures is also $50. The fine for putting up tents or shelters is $100. The use of a motorized vehicle on the trail or use for equestrian activities is a $250 fine. In the case of motorized vehicles, the vehicle may be removed, detained and impounded at the owner's expense.

Motorized wheel chairs, electric bikes, emergency vehicles and other event vehicles are exempt from the restriction.

The cost for new signage on the paths will come out of the funds allocated to the NorthStar Rails to Trails Society, as city staff said it fell under the terms of the management agreement the society has with the city.

Sharon Cross said she had a feeling trail etiquette, or lack thereof, is what precipitated this bylaw.

"Is there any possibility we could do some etiquette signage: how to give way to people; how to communicate?" Cross wondered. "It's just common practice for cyclists to communicate when they're coming up on you."

Cross said there is sometimes a problem with joggers or walkers with headphones on who can't hear cyclists communicating their approach.

"In Calgary you have to use a bell on your bicycle," she said. "I don't know if we want to go that far."

Initially, city staff had concerns that if a speed limit was posted and was not being effectively enforced, the city might be held liable for any issues that may occur. However, the Municipal Insurance Association told the city that it would not incur additional liability, as a municipality is not liable for enacting a bylaw since there is no liability for legislative acts under municipal law. The city just has to follow a council policy on enforcement of the bylaw to be in the clear.

As it stands, council can decide that it won't have the resources or staff to patrol and enforce the speed limit on a consistent basis.

Staff recommended that enforcement of the bylaw be on a complaint basis.

"That's how our bylaw system generally works, until we get more bylaw officers," Mayor Wayne Stetski said.

The city currently has three bylaw officers.

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