-September 19th. A small group of Gibson-Landsdale (GALA) members met with us at the EH Office. Kelly Scott, Physical Activity Specialist with Public Health Services, and Gavin with Sustainable Mobility at the City joined us. We were thinking about ways to make the Cathy Wever Elementary school on Wentworth St. safer to get to on foot and by bike.
We landed on the idea that involving the school trustees, that is, making safe routes to school a trustee issue, and including the School Council was the way to go. We explored the idea of making the process of engaging residents, parents and other stakeholders to improve the school zone around Cathy Wever School become unnecessary, if instead, we aim for a over-aching citywide traffic calming policy, that is automatic for all our school, rather than having to go individual case by case issue, where the city leans on the community to push along. For example, school, rec centres etc, should not be bordered by a truck route. Or, within school zones, speed limits should be brought down to 25 km. Some argued that it makes more sense to look at the context of any given neighbourhood because one size doesn’t fit all.
Kelly informed the group that in 2015, both school boards signed the Active Transportation Charter, a document that talks about making walking and cycling a priority. School Trustee for Ward 9, Dawn Denko signed it.
“We are doing this with schools, and new schools that are being built,” Kelly said. She said that normally, during a school travel plan they invite, police, trustees, parents, traffic engineers etc, for example, crosswalks on St. Ann.
Kelly talked further about the School Travel Plan (STP) of the Active and Sustainable School Transporation (ASST) program, which together with the Charter, gives both school boards and the city the tools to ensure that commit to walking and cycling as a priority. Superintendents at their “hub” meetings already have 80 schools have a travel plan of 138 schools (elementary and middle schools).
Kelly then explained to us all that when they are working with schools, the principal will sponsor the school travel plan, and that they encourage parents and students to be on the walkabout, “then we move forward from there.” School council is in charge of the travel plan while infrastructure changes are up to the city. School council is key to engagement.
Emma had a question for the group: “How does the social economic power in the community determine the time, action etc of interventions and improvements?” For example, compared the image about of east end, Cathy Wever School and that of Westdale’s Cootes Paradise Elementary School. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Emma described her neighbourhood’s demographic: newcomers, low resourced, low income, “very challenging” for engagement. She said that in the GALA neighborhood, going door to door, we have only two people who joined. Ward 3 has the most families of all wards.
There are other challenges; in many of the schools the turn over of principals is high (ex. Prince of Wales, Cathedral High etc).
Now that they have hired a STP coordinator, Kelly says that the person will keep on top of everything. School Council spreads out the work. “We are trying to come up with messages, a toolkit so that whoever takes this on will be less challenged,” Kelly said. A “Parent education workshop” is in the works.
Jason runs after-school programs and his kids walk everywhere. He says that it is very dangerous to go to Powell Park and Woodlands Park: “you have to cross 4 lanes of traffic to Powell park.”
The group has some ideas to make Wentworth safer: remove the 2 lanes going southbound and convert the road into one way going southbound. Move the northbound to the centre which leaves the east side of the street and opportunity for parking with bump out infrastructure (that is, move the parking to the school side of the street).
Alain suggested that the speed limit across the 3 blocks (from Barton to Cannon) should be lowered..period!
Beatrice had this thought: there should be No Cars in the School Zone. Kids should have to walk through the zone to get into the school!
Wentworth and Wilson so many crashes, so avoid configurations, keep consistent.
Wentworth has very narrow sidewalks! What’s more, it is dangerous for cars too! The northbound lane is one of the narrowest lanes in the city for trucks. Add this to the report to the city staffer.
There are under 4000 cars per day on Wentworth. Wentworth is a collector now–(5 arterials in Ward 3) as of May. It’s also linked to the Access, so people come barreling down the mountain.
In a 24 hour period, there are 1,202 northbound cars and 4,518 going southbound. The volume could be accommodated with one lane in each direction ways.
Also, concerning speed– the province is looking at changing that, so Traffic Engineering is waiting for directions.
-We are focusing our work on using the Charter as a way forward. We plan to have conversations with the principal. It’s good for us to do the STP, so we need to find the lead to champion this.
-We will be connecting with school board trustees. There will be a Debate on Oct 8th at the Pearl and we will be able to ask questions of the trustees.
Possible Questions for Trustees; how do you see the school travel plans, implemented in our ward?
For the new high school on Melrose and King, we are wondering if there are plans to connect the new high school to what’s around it. For example, it seems that Cannon St is not connected to the school, yet 1,250 students will be attending the school so it’s a good opportunity to do a school travel plan for this site.
Lastly, we have heard from the traffic safety technologist at the Public Works Department that they are currently reviewing potential changes to the lane configuration on Wentworth Street between Burlington Street and King Street. As part of this review, their Signals group is investigating the feasibility for a pedestrian crossing on Wentworth between Cannon and Barton near Cathy Wever School. Even once the review is complete, the earliest that any changes can be implemented is 2019.