A crosswalk located outside Ucluelet Elementary School is on the chopping block after being deemed unsafe by ICBC.
Last year, council directed staff to look into the traffic control and signage around Ucluelet’s schools to identify potential risks to young foot traffic.
Part of this review included a comprehensive review of traffic signs and road markings that ICBC volunteered to conduct.
ICBC’s review recommended installing new signage, making the entire area a playground zone, purchasing a speed-reader board, and removing the crosswalk located outside the elementary school that guides kids from one side of Peninsula Road to the other.
Council agreed to culminate the entire area into a playground zone and will install $2,820 worth of signage to let drivers know about their decision.
Council also agreed to purchase a $10,000 speed-reader board.
When it came to crossing off the crosswalk however, council hesitated.
Removing the crosswalk would cost roughly $800.
ICBC sees the crosswalk as a safety concern because it does not lead children onto an existing sidewalk but rather a gravel area near a residential driveway.
Coun. Randy Oliwa said the crosswalk sees frequent use and objected to its removal.
“I would much rather see some clarification on what improvements we could make to the receiving end of that existing crosswalk,” he said.
Coun. Geoff Lyons agreed and said the crosswalk serves a purpose regardless of whether it currently leads to a proper sidewalk. “In the long term, we have sidewalks and everything else planned for that area so is there a real problem is my question to leave that crosswalk there on an interim basis,” he asked.
Lyons wondered how kids who use the crosswalk to get to the school will cross the road and suggested the crosswalk’s removal could lead to jaywalking issues.
District CAO Andrew Yeates responded the crosswalk is a liability concern.
“We’re sending children across a road to an area that doesn’t have a safe landing so it is a liability for us if something happens over there,” he said.
“Without a sidewalk that provides that safety-a curb and gutter sidewalk-we have a problem; there’s nowhere for them to go.”
Coun. Dario Corlazzoli suggested relocating the crosswalk to a safer area.
“Right now it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” he said. “Vehicles park right there and let the kids out and then they run across.”
Oliwa suggested other crosswalk’s in the area also lead to non-sidewalked areas and said the district should look into installing safe sidewalk sections along the East side of Peninsula Road.
“I would much rather see us go a little bit further along and have something in place to receive where those children who are heading across the road,” he said.
Corlazzoli said the other sidewalks are at intersections where drivers naturally stop whereas the sidewalk outside UES has no such safeguard as it runs across Peninsula
Road. “Even if we have good intentions of what we’re doing and we sign it properly, I’m just afraid that if something does happen there that we’re still holding the liability and I think that’s a risk that we can’t afford to take,” he said. “Unless we make it so that it’s safe for the kids and legal I think it has to be removed.”
Oliwa asked whether ICBC’s report had specifically called for the crosswalk’s removal and Yeates responded that it had.
Coun. Sally Mole said the UES crosswalk is heavily used but that she would be open to alternative locations.
“I would be very much against removing that crosswalk but if we can find an alternative I would be interested in hearing that,” she said.
She cautioned nixing the current sidewalk could confuse parents accustomed to dropping their kids off at the current crosswalk.
“I see a lot of parents, I’m one of them, that pull up on that (East) side of the road and let their kids off to cross, so I think we have to take into account that there will be parents wanting to pull over and drop their kids off on that side of the road,” she said.
She said any alternate location would need to be nearby because children cannot be expected to wander far distances in search of a crosswalk.