Plans are afoot for the City of New Westminster to tackle safe travel around local schools in 2019.
While recently considering a staff report about pedestrian improvements taking place this year at four intersections in the city, Coun. Nadine Nakagawa noted that she’s heard a number of concerns raised about pedestrian safety near schools, including Queen Elizabeth and Richard McBride elementary schools.
Mike Anderson, a transportation engineer with the city, said the engineering department will be working with the neighbourhood traffic advisory committee this year on the issue of safety around schools, with the goal of developing a long-term implementation strategy.
“There is potentially a lot of work to be done,” he said. “It could take several years to get through it and to get through all the schools, but we are looking to develop a program that gives us consistency throughout the city at all the schools. That’s a focus for 2019 – developing a vision for all the schools, and finishing off the year with an implementation strategy and looking at how we can build that into future capital funding programs.”
Coun. Mary Trentadue said the city should involve the parent advisory committees at New West schools when considering the impacts of pickup and drop-off issues around schools.
“Those parents on the ground have a really good sense of what’s working and what’s not working. Sometimes dealing with staff with the district, they may be a bit more disconnected from it,” she said. “I would really advocate that the PACs are included in this engagement.”
Lisa LeBlanc, the city’s transportation manager, said the school travel planning process explicitly engages PACs and the broader school community, as well as the police, ICBC and school administration, when it’s appropriate to do so.
“It’s really meant to be that school-community connection,” she said. “And it’s meant to be a partnership so there are infrastructure, engineering issues that can be addressed from an engineering point-of-view. There is a very strong education component to this as well, and an engagement component.”
Nakagawa said she’s heard some concerns raised about the Safe routes to School program in Queensborough, and how that process related to the reconstruction work that’s taken place on Ewen Avenue.
LeBlanc said traffic plans were completed for every elementary school and middle school in New Westminster in 2015, with the exception of the schools in Queensborough. Because construction was taking place on Ewen Avenue, she said it wasn’t the time to do that work.
“So, that’s something that we need to do a circle back and complete the school traffic plans with involvement from the school community there,” she said. “In the meantime, we have had staff working with the school community at the elementary school in particular. There were some issues that came up with respect to parking, with respect to on-street pickup and drop-off that were addressed right around the winter holiday season.”
While there have been “bits and pieces of things done” around Queensborough schools, LeBlanc said it’s time to compete the school travel plans for schools in that neighbourhood.
The City of New Westminster’s website has information about the best walking routes to elementary schools. You can find them at www.newwestcity.ca/walking#best-walking-routes-to-school.