As the City of St. Albert looks to realign their speed limits associated to certain thoroughfares, an important review that has put the spotlight on the long-overdue need to make some necessary changes to the current posted school zones, it seems a small detail may have been overlooked.
As part of the review process, one identified potential change will see school zone hours extended to 8:00 p.m., similar to that of our local playground zones.
While such an adjustment is a welcome change, and certainly a positive move towards augmenting the safety of our municipal roadways, it falls short of fully addressing the safety considerations of our young students, because the zone start time is slated to remain status quo.
The idea that school zone speed limits should commence at 8 a.m., and no earlier, completely misses the current reality that so many students are attending their schools, walking through these designated school zones, long before eight bells.
There should be, and needs to be, some consistency vis-a-vis the actual timings of when school-aged pedestrians are interfacing with vehicular traffic.
Some kids are actually getting on their buses as early as 7:25 in the morning, with their respective bus stops located within, or near, these school zones.
Even when considering the (older) high-school students, who are more commonly the earliest ones to bus in, many are routinely being dropped off at their respective schools before eight o’clock.
It leaves us to wonder if those doing the review gave any thought to researching when the school buses actually start running their routes, and how early in the morning the kids are out and about starting their treks to their schools and/or bus stops.
One might suggest that it is equally, and possibly more important, to reduce speeds while students are en route to their schools, as it is while they are sitting in class. Otherwise, there is no congruency.
On average, do we see more young people out between 7 and 8 a.m. or, between 7 and 8 p.m.?
During which of these two one-hour blocks do we typically see the highest volume of vehicles travelling through school zones?
Given that, in this area especially, where school buses are not required to use their stop signals, and vehicles are permitted to pass when buses are stopped, it is even more critical that we make the most of every opportunity to slow these drivers down in designated vulnerable areas.
Furthermore, one might argue, that there are more little ones out and about before 8 a.m. daily, than we see into the later evening.
If school and playground zones are seeing the presence of large volumes of young school-aged pedestrians shortly after 7 a.m., then the current, and proposed, 8 a.m. start time for speed reduction measures, does little to address safety enhancements, given the start time is one hour too late.
If we are spending all this time and money doing a complete overview of our local speed zones, let’s do our homework thoroughly and properly first, and make certain to do it right. Consistency and congruency usually yield the best results.
Shawn LeMay, St. Albert