(Courtesy District of Saanich)

(Courtesy District of Saanich)

LETTER: Saanich working to develop safer routes to school

We are stuck in a cycle, and that’s not a good thing. I’ve heard some parents are afraid to let their kids walk or bike to school because there are too many cars. In consequence, they drive their kids to school…and the cycle repeats. We know our schools weren’t built to handle so many cars and they often need to close or restrict their drop-off loops, if they have one.

Hence cars end up on the street outside of the school and some forget that parking restrictions are for safety, and common road courtesies still apply. For example, pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks and crossings, front lawns are not for U-turns, sidewalks and boulevards are not for parking, and cyclists and pedestrians require safe conditions.

Over the last six years we worked with the Capital Regional District and 25 participating schools to develop Active and Safe Routes to School plans. These plans guide our capital projects and bring great programming such as cycling skills to students in Grade 3, 4 and 5 classes. In the past three years more than 500 students have participated.

As a result of these plans, staff completed over 150 actions with another 30 in progress. Our goal is to provide more comfortable, enjoyable, and safer active transportation choices for students and parents. We recognize the importance of protecting our most vulnerable, and developing early adoption of healthy transportation choices for our children.

Some current work includes new bollards and pavement markings on Burnside for the Marigold and Spectrum schools. These improve walking and cycling and introduce additional traffic calming. The new concrete sidewalk on Gordon Head Road at Campus View Elementary replaces the poor asphalt sidewalk. This improves accessibility for users of mobility devices and improves connections to the school for all.

We hope parents and caregivers can find the time to walk and cycle their kids, all or part of the way. Their behaviour will be improved, you and your kids will be healthier and there will be less congestion in front of our schools. Together, let’s start September safer.

Fred Haynes

Mayor of Saanich