Edmonton

Two Edmonton city councillors call for photo radar reduction

Edmonton city councillor Mike Nickel is petitioning the province to rid Alberta's roads of photo radar traps, describing the enforcement method as a "woefully over-utilized" tax on drivers. 

Councillor Mike Nickel calls the photo radar program ineffective

A two-year review by the provincial government into photo radar in Alberta is set to conclude next year. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Edmonton city councillor Mike Nickel is petitioning the province to rid Alberta's roads of photo radar traps, describing the enforcement method as a "woefully over-utilized" tax on drivers. 

Nickel and fellow councillor Jon Dziadyk have sent a letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Transportation Minister Ric McIver, asking the government to consider phasing out automated enforcement or banning it outright. 

Nickel said the province needs to take immediate action to reduce the authority of municipalities to conduct automated enforcement for speeding.

He's also launched a public petition, collecting signatures from citizens who who no longer see value in the system. 

Nickel said that photo radar and automated enforcement have been a source of "great frustration and disdain" for the public during the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Photo radar should have been used as a single part of the total traffic enforcement plan to reduce excessive speeding, instead it has been woefully overutilized as a habitual tax on drivers," reads the letter.

"It has been abused to the point where it is no longer having the desired effect of promoting good driving behaviour." 

Nickel argues that the loss of demerit points would be more effective than photo radar tickets. Fines drivers receive in the mail weeks following an infraction on the road do little to prevent speeding, he said. 

"If we're about getting what we could call the unsafe drivers off the road, you have to pile up a consequence," Nickel said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.

"And getting a ticket weeks after you'd gone through that intersection isn't effective."

Councillor Mike Nickel is on a campaign to rid the roads of photo radar. He's started a petition and sent a letter to the provincial transportation minister urging him to reduce, or completely phase out, the practice. 7:53

A two-year review by the provincial government into photo radar in Alberta is set to conclude next year. When announcing the review in November, 2019, the province put a temporary freeze on municipalities buying or upgrading photo radar equipment.

The previous Alberta NDP government said it planned to eliminate photo radar as a tool for revenue generation after a 2018 review showed only a marginal contribution to traffic safety, despite Alberta having three times the number of photo-radar devices per capita than British Columbia or Manitoba.

New guidelines that forced municipalities to disclose photo radar locations and submit reports showing cameras are making roads safer went into effect earlier this year.

Nickel said he wanted to tackle the photo radar issue because he's opposed the practice since the start of his political career.

With a little more than a year until the next scheduled municipal election in 2021, he said he felt a sense of urgency. 

He said he decided to approach the province rather than his city colleagues because of recent frustrations he's felt with council decisions.

Nickel cited a motion to increase grass-cutting cycles in Edmonton being voted down, and a proposal for e-bike subsidies as two examples of him not seeing eye-to-eye with council. 

"I just think the course of this council has got to change," Nickel said.

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