Ucluelet clears up driving confusion around schools

The confusion caused by Ucluelet’s playground and school zones has officially been nixed and the entire area around Ucluelet’s schools is now a playground zone.

During last week’s regular meeting, Ucluelet’s municipal council voted to transform the playground zone and school zone on Peninsula Road into one large playground zone.

“It’s a welcomed change,” said Sgt. Jeff Swann of the Ucluelet RCMP. “We’re really confident this new change will make our children a lot safer.”

Prior to the zones’ merger, Ucluelet’s school zone ran between Matterson Drive and Alder Street with a playground zone in effect between the George Fraser Garden and Alder Street The school zone was not in effect on weekends, statutory holidays or during summer months while the playground zone was in effect every day from dusk until dawn.

This created an eclectic group of traffic signs that confused drivers, especially tourists, and last week council approved $2,820 worth of new signage that will clearly mark the entire area as a playground zone.

Coun. Randy Oliwa asked for clarification regarding the wording of the new signs and wondered whether the current ‘8 am -9 pm’ direction had to be changed to ‘dawn to dusk.’ He said he preferred the 8 am to 9 pm direction.

CAO Andrew Yeates responded that ‘dawn to dusk’ is a playground zone requirement. “If you go with the school zone you can go with different hours but then you’re limited to Monday-Friday and it’s not in effect over the summer,” he said. “It’s one or the other not both.”

Council approved the new signage and also agreed to purchase a new speed-reader board for $10,000 to deter speeders.

Swann said the speed-reader board will be an effective tool to slow traffic.

“I think it’s needed and, as a tax payer in this community too any expenditure you always look at ‘do we need it, do we not’ and in this case I think it’s a very wise choice and very effective use of resources,” he said.

He added that the new signage will help drivers understand that they need to slow down.

“The hard part is educating people that it’s not just during school hours,” he said. “In the summertime when it’s sunny and warm we need people to slow down to the playground hours.”

He noted the area contains several parks and various user groups use the school’s facilities.

“As a police officer in this area it can be a very dangerous zone,” he said. “The older kids are a little bit more aware of what’s going on but every once in a while they forget too.”

The moves stemmed from a longrunning discussion about the safety of young pedestrians around Ucluelet’s schools and recommendations brought forth by an ICBC conducted review of pedestrian safety in the area.

“This will certainly be an evolutionary process but it’s great to see steps being taken,” said Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving.

Swann said a broad range of stakeholders encouraged and endorsed the changes.

“From the outset, the district of Ucluelet included us and our perspective and our thoughts on these consultations,” he said.

“We’ve talked to people at the PAC (Parent Advisory Council) and it was a colloborative group effort with everybody from the school to the district to local citizens that were concerned…Everybody is of the mindset that we need to make some changes there.”

During a conversation about the safety of the school zone last year, council had considered installing speed bumps in the area but these speed bumps did not appear on last week’s agenda package.

During the meeting’s public question period, council was asked whether speed bumps had been considered.

“We’ve discussed it several times and it hasn’t gained the traction necessary,” Irving said. “We’re looking at the different uses in the area and didn’t know whether that was an effective tool. This was our first go and we’ll see what happens from there.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca