Work together for safety sake

Parent wants pedestrian conditions improved around Beairsto Elementary

I am a parent of a child at Beairsto school. I was at  Beairsto PAC meeting recently and one of the items on the agenda was regarding the building of the Tim Hortons and a gas station that will be across the street from Beairsto. Many parents are concerned that this development has the potential to increase the safety risks of our children walking to school.

We live on 25th Street (between 32nd Avenue and 35th Avenue). One of the reasons we chose to purchase a house in this location was so we could live close to Beairsto.

We desired to be close to their school so we would have the option of walking to school. I have three children: Grade 2 (at Beairsto), kindergarten (at Harwood for one year) and a three-year-old. Instead of being enjoyable, our walk to and from Beairsto every day has been filled with many safety hazards along the way.

Along with our neighbours, we have been advocating for sidewalks and traffic calming on our street. From conversations with the city council, it seems that sidewalks will be installed.

However, the time frame is uncertain, and in the mean time, we are still faced with sharing 25th Street with heavy and quick traffic as we walk every day. It feels dangerous to be walking with my three little kids, even when I am there to direct them and supervise them.

Although I am happy to hear that sidewalks will be in place at some point, I am greatly saddened to learn that traffic calming will not be introduced as there is a great need for this.

A second area of concern on our daily walk is the intersection of 27th Street and 35th Avenue. It is already a very busy intersection. I fear that with the introduction of Tim Hortons and a gas station in the adjacent lot, this could become an even more dangerous intersection for our children.

I am hoping that extreme measures will be taken by the city and the developers to ensure our children are safe going to and from school.

I’m not sure exactly what is required to make sure that this happens but I wanted to bring this to your attention and request that this be looked at closely. I am not willing to risk my children’s lives to go to school.

I had intended to write this letter for the last couple of days and had not gotten around to it yet.

However, an incident occurred recently that has intensified the urgency to have my voice heard. One afternoon, after meeting my oldest child at Beairsto after school, my three kids and I attempted to cross 35th Avenue at 27th Street. My five-year-old, who is usually very safety conscience, saw the light change from red to flashing green. There is no controlled crosswalk signage in this direction – no hand or walk sign.

She was two steps ahead of me and started to walk off the sidewalk into the crossing lane on the street.

A vehicle that was right near us on 35th Avenue started to move in order to turn right on to 27th Street. The driver did not stop for my daughter, even though my daughter had the right-of-way. If I had not yelled at my daughter to stop, and if she had not listened to me and stopped immediately, she was would have been hit by this vehicle. She stopped in the nick of time.

The driver of the vehicle did not even acknowledge this incident or even look at us or stop. He just kept going as if we were invisible. I’m not sure how he could have been so unaware or so ignorant of the danger he was causing. It was a very close call.

Please know that I do everything in my power to make sure that my children are safe. I teach them over and over again how to watch for cars, hold hands crossing the street, stay in the white lines, etc.

But they are kids and they are not always paying attention, even when they should be.

I only have two hands. I have three children. I cannot hold all their hands with my own.

I encourage them to stay with me always while crossing and I have the third child hold one of their sibling’s hand. It doesn’t always work.

At this point, I’m not sure what else I can do. If I walk my children in the other direction, on to 32nd Avenue, we then need to walk along 27th Street on the sidewalk to the front of the school. This does not feel safe either.

Or, we need to walk over to the school entrance where the buses stop. This does not feel safe either.

If I start driving them, which seems ridiculous since we live so close, then I am only adding to the problem of vehicle congestion at the intersections and at the school. I know the school is working on decreasing the congestion as it is a significant problem at the school already.

It seems from the articles I have read in The Morning Star that Vernon is concerned to make this city a family friendly city in order to encourage families to move here and make Vernon a long-term home. We moved here one-and-half years ago and are surprised and disappointed in what we have experienced.

In all of the other cities I have lived in (all larger than Vernon), I have not felt more unsafe than I do here with my children.

I am pleading that all parties involved work together to ensure that our children are kept safe. In addition to ensuring that the new development is configured in a way that does not effect Beairsto traffic and safety, I am also hoping that other measures can be taken.

Some suggestions are to provide adult crossing guards during morning and afternoon times, changing the intersection lights to a fully controlled intersection, and providing an overpass for pedestrians.

I know that I am not the only parent who is concerned and who has experienced their child almost being hit by a vehicle at that intersection.

Please help us keep our children safe.


Sarah Penner