Over the last year or so in our neighbourhood of Akinsdale, as in many other areas of St. Albert, we have seen a number of “traffic calming” measures installed. The brightly marked crosswalks with their flashing lights and protruding extended curbs are numerous in our area, with the closest to our home at the corner of Akins Drive and Alpine Boulevard. The placement of this particular crosswalk is important due to the amount of pedestrian traffic to and from E.S. Gish school, the 7-Eleven convenience store and the busy thoroughfare that is Akins Drive.
With the close proximity of E.S. Gish school, the crosswalks provide some measure of safety and security for children on their way to and from school. The 7-Eleven also provides a convenient stop for the children to spend their paper route earnings on a treat.
However, some recent incidents at this crosswalk demonstrate that more education is required for the pedestrians, young and old, who utilize the crosswalks that were installed for their safety.
My wife was travelling home recently on Akins Drive to turn right onto Alpine Boulevard while a second vehicle approached travelling the opposite direction on Akins Drive. Two young girls on their two wheeled scooters with treats from the 7-Eleven in hand proceeded from Alpine across Akins Drive without stopping, slowing, looking or activating the flashing lights. My wife and the other oncoming vehicle were forced to brake quite hard in order to not hit these girls. She was still quite visibly shaken and upset when she arrived home minutes after the incident and recounted that she and the opposing driver just sat there staring at each other for a few moments to regain their composure.
If the circumstances had been different with only one vehicle, no other witnesses and the two girls had been struck, I am sure that the headlines would have read “Two Girls Struck in Marked Crosswalk,” leading one to believe that the driver was at fault. My wife felt that this is an important issue, so she visited the administrator at E.S. Gish school, where our three children attended, she was a parent volunteer as well as an educational assistant, to express concern and ask that children be educated about safely navigating our streets by the schools as well as by their parents.
I witnessed the same type of incident the other day as two boys proceeded across Akins Drive at the same crosswalk without stopping, looking or activating the lights. Fortunately, the approaching vehicles from both directions were far enough from the intersection that they were able to slow and stop in time without any excessive braking.
That being said, the education of pedestrians is not confined to young children as I have witnessed adults standing at the same intersection, not at the crosswalk but at the original location of the crosswalk in line with the pathway to Abbey Crescent. They flashed their rather indignant looks to drivers who didn’t stop but they were only steps away from the lighted and marked crosswalk that was installed for their safety.
The placement of this crosswalk is open to discussion as the original placement was in line with the pathway leading to Abbey Crescent on the other side of Akinsdale. This was painted brightly but had to be removed when the crosswalk was realigned with the opposite side of Alpine Boulevard and the extended curb installed. (That is a topic for another discussion regarding planning and budgets!)
I remember as young boy (no mention of how long ago!) in the Ottawa area when crosswalks were first introduced and the media campaign on the proper use of these new pedestrian traffic safety measures: “Pause, point and proceed.” Pointing was to signal your intentions to oncoming traffic; pausing was to allow oncoming traffic to recognize your intention to cross and stop and for you to make eye contact with the driver and then proceed when traffic is stopped in both directions and it is safe to do so.
Parents and teachers, please take the time to educate your children and students how to properly and safely navigate the streets and the correct usage of the crosswalks that are installed for their protection. Fortunately, these incidents that I have highlighted in this letter did not result in any injuries, but nobody wants to see any person injured or worse that could have been avoided with a bit of time spent on educating the public.
Rob Pritchard, St. Albert