Petition raises bus safety concerns

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Concerned about the safety of local students, 239 people have signed a petition that calls for the repealing of a 1983 school bus bylaw. 

Coun. Martin Ring is seen during Monday’s city council meeting, suggesting the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association address the issue of bus stop arms and flashing red lights. Prince Albert’s buses are prohibited from using these devices, as per a 1983 bylaw. 

Concerned about the safety of local students, 239 people have signed a petition that calls for the repealing of a 1983 school bus bylaw.

The petition’s chieftains Cynthia Mamer and Lori Stevenson have circulated the petition with the city’s two main school boards and city council, resulting in unanimous agreement that the bylaw be investigated. 

They first made their case public in a letter to the editor published in the Sept. 22 edition of the Daily Herald.

The bylaw, No. 54 of 1983, prohibits bus drivers from using their flashing red lights and stop arm to halt traffic.

“We feel that … the safety of thousands of children is being compromised every day (that) school bus drivers comply with Bylaw 54,” a joint letter by Mamer and Stevenson reads.

The letter and petition were presented to city council on Monday — the same night the two made a presentation to the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of trustees.

“It was a very good presentation,” trustee George McHenry said. “They gave some really good background.

“Our administration was going to look at some of the things they brought up and put a report together to bring back to the board.”

The intent, he added, is to have an in-depth report considered by whatever board of trustees comes out of the Oct. 24 election.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division is a similar boat, chairperson George Bolduc said.

“Our board has unanimously decided to support the review of this bylaw,” he said. “Safety is a priority for our children whether they are in the school grounds or being transported to school by bus.”

City council made a similar resolution during Monday’s executive committee meeting, with a report coming forth as soon as possible.

“I think we need to move quickly on this,” Mayor Jim Scarrow said. “We should bring all the parties together so we can truly understand the policy.”

This multi-pronged approach is important, Coun. Ted Zurakowski said, as there are many issues at hand.

If children were always dropped off and picked up on the right side of the street so they never have to cross, the stop arm and flashing light issue might be made moot.

“There should be no instances where children are dropped off and have to cross the street, because it should be safety over efficiency,” Zurakowski said.

“It does not happen all the time. There are many instances when it doesn’t happen … To me, that’s a much more effective way of controlling the safety of the students.”

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold said that although the division doesn’t have a policy about same side of the road pickup and drop-off, their practice is to do so as much as possible.

Repealing Bylaw No. 54 may have negative safety implications in itself, Coun. Jayne Remenda said.

If … children did get hit, we all would think that it was a terrible tragedy. Surely, the life of any child is worth more than waiting two minutes. Bruce McKinnon, Prince Albert Catholic School Division trustee

“I’m extremely concerned about the dollars and the education it might take to educate children that just because the stop arm is out does not free you to cross the street,” she said.

“I caution the community … to look at all aspects and not get a false sense of security.”

Another potential negative side effect is road rage, Coun. Greg Dionne said.

Coun. Martin Ring said that the best approach might be to address the matter at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.

With the majority of Saskatchewan cities having a similar bylaw in place, it might be more beneficial to have some provincial consistency on this issue, he reasoned.

With both school boards and city council requesting reports, the three-tiered group is likely to bring their findings forth for discussion at the joint city/ school board committee some time in November.

Prince Albert Catholic School Division trustee Bruce McKinnon said that he hopes the result of this meeting is the repealing of Bylaw 54.

“I am certainly in favour of the use of any means to stop traffic while school children are at risk for crossing streets,” he said.

“Saving one life has to be far more important than uninterrupted traffic flow,” he said.

“If … children did get hit, we all would think that it was a terrible tragedy. Surely, the life of any child is worth more than waiting two minutes.”

 

Bylaw 54’s origins

A new Vehicles Act came into effect on Nov. 1, 1983, prompting the City of Prince Albert to enact Bylaw No. 54 to avoid the requirement of flashing lights and a stop arm on buses within the city.

“The onus in the act has been turned 180 degrees to make the provision mandatory in the city unless city council would otherwise direct by bylaw,” a 1983 report by city commissioner A. R. Linner reads.

To follow the Vehicle Act’s new requirements would “be a major impediment to the reasonable free flow of traffic and could even be a safety problem as many vehicle operators would not recognize the necessity to stop in the city limits,” Linner’s report reads.

“The delays would be unreasonable and create additional safety problems.”

A response by Prince Albert School Division No. 3 director of education D. L. Hockley backs up this sentiment alongside the Prince Albert Rural School Division No. 56.

The Prince Albert Roman Catholic Separate School Division No. 6, however, had its reservations, with their response reading that flashing amber lights alert motorists to the presence of children. 

Organizations: Prince Albert Catholic School Division, Daily Herald, Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association Prince Albert Roman Catholic Separate School Division

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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