Safe walk program coming to four Nanaimo schools

New survey for families at select schools asks about travel routes and concerns

The City of Nanaimo and Nanaimo school district want to know what it would take for north Nanaimo students to walk or wheel to school.

A survey was expected to go to select schools earlier this month to gauge how students get to class and what concerns parents have with their children’s travel to and from school.

It’s all part of a safe walk program, an initiative of the city and Nanaimo school district to encourage children and their families to be active by breaking down barriers to walking and cycling and mapping out routes for students to get to class.

Four schools are set to see the program , including Departure Bay and three elementaries poised to receive new students with the closure of Rutherford: Frank J. Ney, Randerson Ridge and McGirr.

Pete Sabo, school district director of planning and operations, said during a presentation about the program last month that there have been traffic safety concerns in the Departure Bay school area. Several Rutherford Elementary parents have also expressed issues with the distance their children will have to walk to school next September under new catchment boundaries and with the safety of Hammond Bay Road.

RELATED: Parents question school catchment boundaries

“Ideally we really want to promote active transportation, so we want to get kids walking and biking and if need be, taking transit and we want to find out if they are not doing those things right now, why aren’t they doing them? What sorts of barriers are in their way and what can we do to overcome those?” said Jamie Rose, city manager of transportation engineering.

Rose said the idea is to gather information, identify concerns and come up with solutions such as those parents would work on, like a bike train or school bus, or for the school and district to consider around future capital projects, like better connectivity through neighbourhoods with a cut-through or walkway at a dead end street.

A survey was expected to go out last week to families and teachers at the four elementaries as well as Rutherford families assigned to new schools next September.

The safe walk program was previously an initiative of ICBC and revived after a recommendation in the city’s transportation master plan. It involves a transportation team that includes the RCMP, Regional District of Nanaimo Transit and ICBC and will be facilitated by Vancouver-based consultant HASTe B.C. The school district, a cost-sharing partner, has invested $26,000 into the initiative and the city, $30,000.

According to Sabo both agencies are working to see how the program can expand.

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