Residents ‘fed up’ with Downes Road speeders

Aggressive driving is common on rural road, say locals

Abbotsford Police Const. Pat Kelly aims a radar gun at traffic on Downes Road and Murphy Street on Monday morning.

A Downes Road resident using a radar gun clocked seven drivers travelling at speeds of 99 km/hr or higher in the 50 km/hr zone on Tuesday, Feb. 9 between 7 and 8 p.m.

Two of those vehicles registered speeds of 125 and 128 km/hr.

The man, who didn’t want his name published, estimated that another 30 drivers were driving faster than 90 km/hr.

The resident, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said he’s fed up.

“Nobody wants to use the bike lanes. Nobody feels safe walking to the community mailbox … It’s a freeway,” he said.

The man has since presented a petition to city council and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), asking for solutions to speeding and aggressive driving along the route.

The petition was signed by all but one of the approximately 20 households on the portion of Downes Road between Gladwin and Seldon roads.

The document requests that the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) “enforce the speed limit” and “have a visual presence” on the road and that the city look into “traffic calming measures.”

The man said he routinely observes cars passing on a double-solid line, as well as a few instances of vehicles crashing into fences and roll-over collisions.

In one incident, he saw two cars heading in the opposite direction passing other vehicles on a double-solid line. Their actions caused other drivers to have to brake suddenly, almost resulting in a six-car pileup.

The resident says the APD is to blame, in part, for not having enough officers in its traffic section to enforce speeds along the route and to target dangerous drivers.

The APD currently has seven members in its traffic section out of 217 total members. The man says other police agencies he canvassed have a greater percentage of traffic officers.

For example, Langley RCMP has 13 out of 195 members, and Coquitlam has 19 out of 235, he said.

Const. Paul Walker said the APD’s seven traffic members include four constables, two traffic analysts/reconstructionists and one sergeant.

As well, he said all patrol officers include traffic enforcement as part of their regular duties, and the RCMP’s regional Integrated Road Safety Unit is in Abbotsford weekly.

Three years ago, the APD had 12 officers in its traffic section, but Walker said police resources are shifted as priorities change.

The recent focus on gang violence in the Townline Hill area in west Abbotsford has meant officers have been pulled from the traffic section to target those issues, Walker said.

He said other police agencies might choose to allocate their officers differently – for example, with more in traffic and fewer in patrol.

Walker acknowledged that Downes Road is an ongoing concern, but other feeder routes – such as Maclure Road, South Fraser Way, Mt. Lehman, Zero Avenue, Harris Road and 16th Avenue – face similar issues, and must also be monitored accordingly.

He said police increase enforcement on a particular route when there has been a hike in vehicle or pedestrian collisions, or when they receive increased concerns from residents. They have upped their enforcement on Downes Road in the last couple of weeks due to these concerns, Walker said.

City of Abbotsford spokesperson Katherine Treloar said because Downes Road is classified as a “rural collector road,” it is excluded from the city’s current traffic calming policy.

She said approximately 4,200 vehicles travel along Downes Road daily.

“At this time, the city has no speed data to confirm whether speeding is an issue or not on that portion of the road.”

Treloar said the city has received the residents’ petition and will share it with the APD “for their consideration regarding speeding education and enforcement opportunities.”