Adam van der Zwan
Special to the Review
When Amber Hart drives her niece and nephew to Arrow Heights Elementary School twice a week, she says she routinely calls the police.
For a month, Hart has reported drivers who speed through the school zone on Nichol Road — an area that, for years, has seen drivers ignore the 30 kilometre per hour speed limit.
“There’s no way these people are going anywhere close to 30, and I’ll honk my horn at them,” she said, concerned for the safety of the children who attend the school. Currently, there are three signs on each side of the school zone that indicate the speed limit, one of which flashes the driver’s current speed as they pass by.
“How are they not registering that they need to slow down?” asked a bewildered Hart, noting the need for a sidewalk, east of the Park Drive turn-off, that would offer children a safe path to school. She said she’s especially worried about the heightened traffic flow during winter, when drivers use the road to travel to the ski hill.
She isn’t alone. Jennifer Barrett is another frustrated parent who’s taken her concerns up a notch by snapping photos of speeding vehicles as they pass. The daycare-owner said speeders “give [her] a lot of anxiety” as she walks a handful of young children up the road to school multiple times per week. She now uses her photos for reference when reporting the license plate numbers to police, and posts them to social media to raise awareness.
Barrett said her 11-year-old son witnessed two vehicles speeding side-by-side on his way to school one morning last winter. As they roared past, the speed monitor flashed 90 kilometres per hour. After speaking with police, she learned that one officer had ticketed eight drivers in the school zone within two hours, and most of them were local residents.
Barrett said that while she’s satisfied with the police’s response, after so many years there’s “a lack of due diligence from the City and the School Board on being proactive about this.”
“I’m worried that it’s going to take someone being seriously injured for them to do something,” she said.
Mike Thomas, the City’s Director of Engineering, said in an email that city staff proposed a plan earlier this year to fund construction of a sidewalk on Nichol Road and Airport Way, as part of a long-term pedestrian strategy for the neighbourhood. The project would have cost $500,000 in Development Cost Charges.
“As the proposed DCC Bylaw was not supported by council, these sidewalks are not currently funded or planned,” he explained.
Giles Shearing, another troubled parent, said the solutions don’t just boil down to a new sidewalk.
“We’re concerned that there’s inadequate drop-off space for parents bringing and picking up their children from school,” he said. “We have inadequate crosswalks (too), so kids get dropped off on the opposite side of the school and are asked to walk across the street with no safe access.”
Shearing, an environmental consultant, said seeing “vehicles dodge the kids every single day” motivated him to draft his own strategy that would make sure kids from all over the neighbourhood can get to school safely. The plan, he said, has recommendations for new road signage, road-widening measures, and increased parking, among other things, and has been “informally vetted” by the school district, the RCMP, and the city.
The school district’s superintendent, Mike Hooker, said that after exhausting all options with the city, he’s well aware that school zone safety has been a longstanding issue. He hopes that progress can be made at an upcoming meeting in January, where the school district and the city will formally discuss Shearing’s proposed strategy.
Mike Thomas confirmed his interest in Shearing’s proposal.
“Following that meeting, it is likely that staff will bring a report to council with some discussion and recommendations on the issue,” he said. “[This] may include considerations for projects as part of the Long-term Financial Plan and Annual Budget process.”