by Glen Schaefer
Special to the Langley Advance
Parents in Langley’s fast-growing Willoughby Slope neighbourhood want crosswalks around one of their neighbourhood’s elementary schools.
Another recent traffic close call prompted Angela Drake, a member of the parent advisory council at Richard Bulpitt Elementary, to launch a Change.org petition last week, after parents spent a year pestering Township staff about the issue. Drake said she had stopped her westbound car to let a mom and her son cross 77A Avenue in front of the school.
“They were in between two tightly packed cars,” Drake said, adding another car was heading towards them eastbound, “probably at much too fast of a clip, and the mom did not look both ways.”
The other car stopped just in time, but Drake said she was shaking after the near-miss. “It’s happening all the time, where there’s students and young kids.”
The stretch of 77A in front of the school does have a speed bump to calm traffic, and signs indicate the maximum speed of 30 km/h, but Drake and the PAC parents say crosswalks are also needed. The school’s 530 students come from blocks away to attend kindergarten through Grade 5. Drake said she walks to school with her own two children, aged nine and seven.
PAC president Karena Bowman said the council first approached township staff more than a year ago. Members have continued to press for painted crosswalks.
A traffic roundabout is planned for the intersection of 77A and 209 Street, but that project awaits the start of construction of a residential development on the corner. It is a relatively new neighbourhood.
“The new development they’re referring to, they haven’t even dug ground,” Bowman said. “We’re talking potentially years.”
Another roundabout is being installed east of the school at 77A and 211 Street.
“That will have some effect to help calm the traffic, but it’s still not a crosswalk,” Bowman said.
The school has been open for three years.
“Our fear as parents is that it’s going to take a tragedy for something to be done,” Bowman said.
Township Mayor Jack Froese, who first heard the parents’ concerns when The Province called Tuesday, acknowledged that new neighbourhoods have growing pains.
“Unfortunately, because that whole area is under development, not all the infrastructure is in place,” Froese said. “We do our planning, but in this transition when a community is growing, sometimes things are missed.”
Two other elementary schools and a middle school also serve the area, along 208th Street south of the Trans-Canada Highway.
But Froese, a former Vancouver Police accident investigator, said township staff follow Transportation Canada guidelines on what types of crosswalks to install and where. Any intersection is legally a crosswalk, painted or not, and cars have a duty to yield to pedestrians. “Pedestrians still have to exercise caution, look both ways, no matter where you are.”
Froese said township staff will do a study of car and pedestrian traffic in the area around the school following spring break.
“We will be looking at it to determine what type of crosswalk should go in there, and what the timing should be.”
Froese said he’d keep tabs on the parents’ concerns.
– Glen Schaefer is a reporter with the Vancouver Province.