Residents in Nanaimo’s south end are pushing for better safety and accessibility in and around Bayview Elementary School.
In a letter to Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board, Grace Boutilier, Echo McNaughton and Becky Thiessen expressed concern about “inaccessible and unsafe street crossings to access the school, as well as a dearth of curb cuts and separated sidewalks on Needham Street, which has a significant blind crest.” The concerned citizens are advocating for infrastructure upgrades.
The school on View Street is in an area with traffic safety signs obscured by other signs, blind spots and irregular streets, they said. A crossing guard was injured near the school in late February in an incident that was confirmed by Nanaimo RCMP.
“I live quite close to [Old Victoria Road-Needham intersection] and I regularly hear people laying on their horns because they can’t see each other…” McNaughton said. “I’ve seen people almost get into fistfights over who has the right-of-way going through that intersection … I’ve seen people go blasting through there and then kids cross 30 seconds later.”
Boutilier worries about students who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. There are sidewalks on only one side of the school, she said, and children coming from any of the other points don’t have the same protection.
“There’s actually barriers on multiple sides of the intersection,” Boutilier said. “So again, a child with any mobility impairment is going to have difficulty navigating through that crosswalk and even able-bodied children have to cross three paths to actually follow the line of progression to the school.”
The trio has engaged with other groups, including Bayview’s parent advisory council and the City of Nanaimo, which they said assessed the intersection last fall. Thiessen mentioned that the new city plan includes language about walkability and active transportation.
“If you don’t have sidewalks in your neighbourhood, how are you encouraging your communities to be walkable? Who wants to walk through that intersection?” she asked. “People are cutting directly across the intersection … because that’s the direct route.”
School trustees discussed the matter at their Feb. 22 meeting. Greg Keller, school board chairperson, said safe routes to schools are something trustees always look at, while Tom Rokeby, trustee responsible for Bayview, said the school is unique with streets that approach in “non-traditional fashion.”
“Some of them have been restricted to one-way in order to facilitate an even traffic flow. I would guess it’s one of our older sites …I really want to thank [citizens] for bringing these details to our attention and it’s already part of the conversation and we’re learning as we go,” Rokeby said.
Jamie Rose, city transportation manager, said an active school travel program was done for Bayview in 2006, which led to changes on the road structure around the school.
Preliminary conversations are under way to revisit safety improvements, but the city may not have the capacity to formally start the process until similar work is done for other schools, Rose said, as there is planning underway for other programs, with more being requested.
“When folks come in with a one-off request, we receive it [and] process it,” he said. “When we are able to look at an area or a neighborhood in a more holistic fashion, it really creates a much, much better product and it enables us to basically provide a higher level of service to the neighbourhood as a whole. So it’s not just one issue and one concern that we’re dealing with, it’s a bigger, broader improvement for everybody.”
Community members wishing to share their feedback are invited to e-mail the concerned citizens at firstname.lastname@example.org.