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Penticton school in the danger zone
One school’s efforts to put the brakes on lead-footed motorists have hit a detour at city hall.
Staff at Parkway Elementary has for years been trying to slow down drivers who race by along Kinney Avenue. For now, safety measures consist mainly of signage, crossing guards and pylons that narrow the roadway, but those haven’t solved the problem.
Two years ago, a student working as a crossing guard had her feet run over by a car, while plywood cut-outs that look like crossing guards have been struck repeatedly.
Parent Teresa Sherburne, who lives nearby and walks her two kids to school daily, said some drivers still routinely break the school zone speed limit.
“It’s 30 km/h and they probably go the regular speed limit, 50 or 60 km/h, through here.” she said.
“You see a lot of glares from parents to people who don’t slow down.”
Parkway principal Kelly Jones suggested Kinney Avenue’s speed problem results from it being a long straightaway that serves as a short cut to the Channel Parkway. He’s hoping the issue can be remedied by combining the school’s regular traffic-calming efforts with speed reader boards that show how fast passing motorists are travelling.
“We know it acts as a huge deterrent for people when they drive by. They see their speed and they slow down,” Jones said.
He’d like to see two such boards installed at either end of the school zone on Kinney Avenue, plus another on Warren Avenue. Each board, attached to a utility pole, is estimated to cost about $8,000; the school has so far raised about $3,800 and is hoping the business community will help.
A representative from Parkway’s parent advisory committee also approached Penticton city council’s transportation committee for assistance.
The transportation committee, however, took the idea a step further and recommended council ask the B.C. government to revive its photo radar program for use in school zones and playground areas.
That recommendation was defeated by a 3-3 vote at Monday’s council meeting with Mayor Dan Ashton and Couns. Judy Sentes and Helena Konanz opposed. Coun. Garry Litke was absent and the tie vote killed the motion.
The most vocal advocate for the idea was Coun. Wes Hopkin. He chastised colleagues who spoke against photo radar, which was subject to high-profile court challenges before the B.C. Liberals axed the program in 2001.
“I just think it shows a complete political cowardice that we are not willing to stand up to protect the children in this community because we’re just afraid to talk about photo radar,” Hopkin said.
Others at the council table suggested Penticton RCMP be asked to step up enforcement efforts in school zones and that the city explore the expanded use of speed bumps.
Jones said photo radar and speed bumps would be welcome, but are beside the point.
“That’s never really been our push,” he said. “Our push has been to get speed reader boards.”
City council eventually agreed to send the matter back to staff for further study, but the principal remains hopeful something will be in place by the start of the next school year.
“We’re really pleased that council is talking about it. We’re really pleased that it’s getting some publicity and some awareness. Those are all good things,” Jones said.
“We know that it’s a process we have to go through, and we see the fact that they’re having these discussions as a good thing. We’re not going to de disappointed until we’re told no.”