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Frustrated parent launches petition for safer school crosswalk

The new three-way stop sign on Sawmill Valley Drive at Terry Fox Public School caused a crosswalk to be moved down the block to a hazardous location, mom says

You've heard about moving mountains, but how about a school crossing walk?

The lack of action about pedestrian safety concerns near Terry Fox Public School has driven one frustrated parent to launch a petition.

“This is becoming a bit of a gong show,” said Erin Ford, who walks with her young child to the school every day on Sawmill Valley Drive. “There seems to be a lot finger pointing, everybody can do something but nobody is doing anything.”

What has raised the ire of Ford and the 59 other parents who have so far signed the ‘We need immediate changes to ensure the walking safety of our school children!’ petition, is the relocation of the school’s supervised crosswalk in September to be in compliance with proximity rules of a new, nearby three-way stop sign.

The former crosswalk, which took children mere steps from the school’s front door, and the sole crossing guard is now a long block away, forcing children to navigate three extra unsupervised crossings to get to school, Ford said.

This includes crossing the busy school driveway where a staff member does double duty directing traffic and walking children safely into the school, crossing nearby Society Crescent, and crossing at the new three-way stop crosswalk, which is confusing for children who do not understand drivers’ rules for such stops, added Ford.

On top of that, it’s become apparent that since September drivers are having difficulty seeing the crossing guard and adjusting to the new location as many vehicles have blown through the crosswalk, said Ford.

This is especially concerning for Ford because she has witnessed drivers turning left off Colter Street onto Sawmill Valley Drive who appear not to see the crossing guard because of the high volume of traffic heading east on Sawmill Valley.

The crossing guard herself, Sheri McClintock, has reported several near-misses as she has stepped out onto Sawmill Valley. Just this Tuesday, there was a minor fender bender at the crosswalk because drivers attempt to speed up after stopping at the new three-way stop sign in front of the school, only to be slowed down by parents’ vehicles turning left into the school’s kindergarten entrance, Ford said.

“What I’m trying to convey now is there’s a risk of somebody getting hit,” Ford said. “I haven’t seen any action from the Town on this and when I ask for deadlines, or even milestone dates, despite the growing concerns of the slippery conditions and the snowy weather, I’m getting the runaround.”

Councillor Kelly Broome, in whose ward the school is located, has been communicating with Ford about the concerns, she said. 

"Kelly said she needs other people contacting the town, as well, so a petition seemed like the most organized, clear and concise manner to gather names and other people’s concerns," Ford said.

Dana Miller, who signed the petition, wrote, “I’m signing this petition to keep my nephew safe. When I visit and I get to walk him home from school, it would be nice to know that we are safe and supported by a crossing guard at a difficult crossing.”

After much research into the issue, the following four proposals were made to the Town on behalf of Ford and other parents:

  • The school runs an awareness newsletter or campaign on the pedestrian safety issue, about which it has parental support;
  • Relocate the crossing guard to the new three-way stop sign crosswalk;
  • Stop using the newer crosswalk farther away from the school due to numerous safety hazards;
  • The Town consider placing flashing lights at the new three-way stop sign to help drivers see the crossing guard and children.

"Something has got to change, something has got to give because the system, the way it's set up now, is set up for disaster," Ford said.

Broome could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

To learn more about the petition, visit here

Photo map explanation of safety concerns, provided by Erin Ford:

  • This leaves our guard attempting to cross children from south to north (B), but accelerating cars that have just turned left onto Sawmill Valley from Colter Street do not have time to react to whistles or flashing stop sign. These cars usually end up driving right through her crosswalk even if the guard has started to step out. The crosswalk is a safe distance from the new three-way stop-signs, but much too close to the Colter/Sawmill Valley intersection to be considered safe.
  • With increased drivers taking their children to school, the safety issues at the end of the school’s east parking lot is an area even an adult doesn't wish to cross (D). Kids not only cross here alone, but need to be reminded to look behind them to watch for cars turning right onto Society Crescent, off Sawmill Valley (C). 
  • Area (D) at the end of the east lot is a huge area of concern for parents. We do acknowledge that there is now a teacher on duty and there are new painted lines at the end of the east lot, but with the volume of aggressive drivers, I really do feel that there must be a greater attempt made at ensuring our children can make it to the school by foot, especially with the slippery winter months ahead.