Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pedestrian safety a growing concern

The following story in the Burnaby Now highlights the dangers faced by pedestrians, including children, on a daily basis in Burnaby.  The stretch of Gilmore in front of Kitchener Elementary School does not have a curb separating the road from the sidewalk which incidentally is made of gravel.  From reading the story, there are differing views on the level of safety that exists around the school.  On the one side, there are parents and children that say they are faced with dangerous drivers while walking to school with their children whereas the City of Burnaby's David Kilpatrick says that safety has improved because a new drop-off area has been created behind the school.  It looks like he's forgotten about the children that walk to school.

Close calls spark demand for improvements

Parents say drivers are speeding through crosswalk

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Parents at Kitchener Elementary who are worried for their children's safety want improved visibility around the school's crosswalk.
"The issue is the cars are obviously going too fast along Gilmore, north and south, and our little crossing is right in the middle of Gilmore," said Melody Eng, chair of the school's parent advisory council. "We feel the crosswalk isn't what it could be. . We'd like to see the crossing made more visible and safer."
Kitchener is in the Willingdon Heights area and faces Gilmore Avenue. The main crosswalk in front of the school is marked with standard signs that the city provides for local schools, but Eng said it's not enough to slow traffic.
"If you stand out there, you can see how fast the traffic goes," she said. "People are whizzing by."
Eng said drivers could go right through the crosswalk and not see a child stepping out into the street, and there has been at least one case where a child was almost hit by a driver.
About two months ago, Claude Tani was walking his seven-year-old daughter to school when she was nearly struck.
"She was walking in front of me, she stepped out on the crosswalk and a car came zooming by, and I had to pull her back," he said.
One night, Tani and another parent were almost hit while leaving a PAC meeting at the school.
"Both of us had to run off the crosswalk to get out of the way, because the car didn't slow down at all," he said.
The school has had help from volun-teers with a Speed Watch program at the community policing office on Hastings. They stand with radar guns and a sign that tells people how fast they are going and to slow down if they are over the speed limit. People who speed get their licence-plate numbers written down and the community policing office sends out warning letters. Occasionally, RCMP will issue tickets if they are on site. Kitchener also has student crossing guards out after school.
To make matters worse, vehicles parked around the school can limit visibility around the crosswalk, so the City of Burnaby has put up some barricades to limit parking. The parents have also asked for better crosswalk signage from the school district.
Eng has two children attending Kitchener and has been working on this problem for four years. Parents are often out in front of the school, putting out pylons to prevent further parking congestion.
"Every morning, we are out there at 8 a.m.," she says, "It's all on us, its up to the parents to do something. . We're very vocal, it just seems that things don't seem to get done."
David Kilpatrick works for the City of Burnaby's bylaw enforcement office and focuses on traffic safety. He's visited Kitchener to enforce traffic bylaws but hasn't had to issue any tickets since the parking barricades went in last year.
"Kitchener is one of 42 elementary schools I have been going to for a lot of years, but that school has inherent challenges for traffic that are consistent with a lot of schools," he said.
Part of the problem is Gilmore Avenue has a lot of traffic, it's on a hill and there are no curbs in the school block.
Parents dropping kids off in front of the school can be a dangerous practice, Kilpatrick said. It's better to drop them off a block away or in existing designated drop-off areas, he added.
"At the end of the day, the safety around the school really has to do with the attitude of the parents and the drivers alike," he said. "They have to develop and foster an awareness of the concerns when the kids are out in traffic."
Kilpatrick said there's a new set of stairs at the back of the school, installed last summer, where parents can drop their kids off.
"Since that occurred, I've seen a definite improvement," he said.

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