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Where is the school bus safety in this city?

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  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 15, 2012 06:00 am

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I am writing to you regarding the lunacy of the bylaw on school bus safety in St. Albert. I have been a resident in St. Albert for only four years, but in that time I have complained six or seven times about the safety of our children when using school buses or trying to cross the street.

We are fortunate here that our school buses are equipped with lights, stop signs and barriers that keep our children safe when picking up and dropping off at designated school bus stops. However, I have never seen them used. I have seen and been on the receiving end of crossing the road with a group of children and having drivers not stop either behind the bus or at a designated crosswalk.

I have seen drivers weave and turn through a group of children to try to get to where they are going, sound their horns and yell at kids and parents when they are crossing the street. Earlier this semester I was nearly hit when crossing North Ridge Drive with my eight-year-old, and then I was on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse from the truck driver. I was in the middle of the street, and he didn’t appreciate that fact.

Following a discussion with a school bus driver, I have been left aghast that I was told, if they are seen using these safety devices to protect our children, then they are liable for a bylaw fine from the city of St. Albert for “delaying traffic.” (http://www.stalbert.ca/uploads/files/our_government/bylaws/2011%20Bylaws/ConsolidatedTrafficBylaw18-2005.pdf. The actual bylaw statement is on page 15, section 22 (1) under Special rules of operation.

On a number of occasions I have approached the city about this issue, actually emailing the mayor and city manager, and speaking with a gentleman from ‘engineering’ and having been turned from one department to another when trying to either have a bus route re-examined or altered to save children from needing to cross a busy street.

I also approached the school board in the summer and asked for the bus routes to be looked at in order to be sure that children did not have to cross a major thoroughfare in order to get to their bus in the mornings, and to get home in the evening, and again I came up against the following statements:

• "We can't change the route as we have a contract with the bus company, and that would mean a whole renewal process"

• "The buses can't drive around the side roads … they're too big"

Local law enforcement has told me that this is not within their locus of control, and that they are helpless in trying to make any changes of this type. They are frustrated by this and the challenges with the road safety in St. Albert (anecdotally). Seemingly no one has the will, the authority or the sense to make a change that could save the life of a child.

One final statement that came from someone in the city (no name, sorry) was “we have to make sure that there is a steady flow of traffic, and having the lights and barriers on the school buses would slow traffic down. Can you imagine the complaints?" As you imagine I feel quite strongly about this one!

Some more recent history. A crosswalk was provided following complaints of driver behaviour over the past years in the North Ridge area, although at this time of year with reduced visibility, snow piles, poor driving conditions and the innate lack of care by drivers, this has made little or no difference, and even the occasional appearance by law or bylaw enforcement has not reduced the speed, and lack of consideration.

I am now in the position of having a colleague of mine witness a child being struck by a vehicle while close to an elementary school in St. Albert only this morning (Dec. 10). When is this going to stop? When is the City of St. Albert going stop worrying about people getting to work on time and a steady flow of traffic because they can’t leave earlier and worry more about the safety of the citizens of St. Albert? When is the value of a child’s life going to outweigh the economics of traffic flow?

Why are we debating at length the dog leash issues when the risk to a child’s life is inherent every day in this city? I am open to suggestions regarding how to get this bylaw changed.

Brian Jackson, St. Albert


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