Traffic patterns

School by school report looks at vehicular issues in Cranbrook

The lunch hour crunch begins at the intersection of Baker Street and 14th Avenue

School District 5 has released a comprehensive traffic study conducted in the City of Cranbrook to address concerns at each school and is looking for parent feedback.

Doug McPhee, director of instruction/safety, said the school board has been encouraged after trustee Patricia Whalen and Laurie Middle School principal David Standing successfully lobbied the City of Cranbrook to have school zones at the city’s middle schools reduced back to 30 kilometres and hour.

The city was supportive, and dropped the limits.

Now McPhee said it’s time to look at a number of safety concerns within the district, and he developed the detailed traffic study that is available on the district’s website.

“Theses are some of the things I’ve noticed that need to be addressed,” he said.

In the 26-page report, McPhee suggests improvements to all schools in Cranbrook in the district that could improve safety and addresses issues that weren’t around when schools were constructed in Cranbrook.

One of the most notable issues in the report is at the intersection of Baker Street and 14th Avenue South where hundreds of Mount Baker Secondary School students cross on a daily basis. that intersection can become extremely busy at lunch hour and before and after school.

“Unfortunately that’s a disaster waiting to happen,” McPhee said. “You can see the frustration on motorists.”

For that intersection, McPhee is suggesting a stoplight complete with pedestrian-operated crosswalk;  but he also admits that education is needed for the high school students using the crosswalk as well. This issue was brought up by trustee Chris Johns at the Tuesday, Dec. 11, regular board meeting.

“Each of the trustees is going to champion that issue in the school community,” McPhee said.

The district hopes to encourage Mount Baker students to use public transportation, which is easily accessible downtown.

Another concern at Mount Baker is the nearby Green Clinic that shares parking with Mount Baker students and staff.

“We have a lot of young drivers in there, so that’s kind of a difficulty,” McPhee said. “I’m not saying they’re bad drivers, but they may not be as cautious as others.”

Over the years the school community has changed, McPhee said. The introduction of French Immersion into Cranbrook has meant that some students no longer attend the school that is physically closest to their homes.

“Kids either walked to school, or they took the bus or rode their bikes,” McPhee said.

Now, more parents are opting to drop their kids off at school for a number of reasons – including the opportunity to spend more time with their children.

“It’s another 10 minutes they get to spend with their kids,” McPhee said.

But with the increase in drop-offs, McPhee said it has created a safety concern at elementary schools, as the three modes of transportation – walking, bus, and drop-off – are all happening in the same area.

“In some places, it’s not the safest,” he said.

The traffic report was accepted by the school board on December 11 at their regular meeting. McPhee said they are now getting the word out to parents and the community to solicit feedback before the report is implemented.

“It’s going to take awhile to germinate,” he said. “You need to have meaningful feedback.”

The issue will be brought before the school board again in February and an action plan will be formed from there. The board will meet with the city once they have collected all the public feedback. McPhee said the issues all most be addressed through a partnership.

“It’s not as unilateral as saying the city needs to do this,” McPhee said, adding that the report will be a great way to bring the issue to the city.

“That is an exceptional starting point.”

McPhee said there are serious financial implications for the school board and the City of Cranbrook, but also small projects that will simply require some paint and a bit of education, such as the creation of drop off zones.

The bottom line, McPhee said, is that there are traffic issues that must be addressed before an accident happens.

“We need to do something,” he said. “We welcome the input because by far the best solution is going to come from the engagement of the school population.”

The board has already been receiving feedback, and McPhee is happy to see it come in. The report can be viewed online at www.sd5.bc.ca.

“This is a positive move. I like the engagement levels,” McPhee said.