Youth en Route presents to Infrastructure committee at Calgary City Council

On Thursday, the infrastructure committee of Calgary City Council considered an administration request to expand the Safe and Active Routes to School program.

Youth en Route’s founder Laura Shutiak attended to present in support of the program. Her short presentation shared some of the data we’ve collected from Calgary High Schools about bike ownership and skill levels, and then showed clearly that only a tiny fraction of students, more like a data blip, currently ride bikes to schools.

She shared how increased City of Calgary support could pave more Multi-use paths, build more separated (and safe) bike routes and add sidewalks and crosswalks to create more direct routes for kids.

Low-hanging fruit

“When you think about the costs, for the price of one highway overpass, the city could create safe routes to all 400 schools in our city,” said Shutiak, describing how changing these short, daily trips from a car to an active mode, as the low-hanging fruit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Councillor Evan Spencer asked a great question about whether these is a template or a guide for what infrastructure around schools should look like. From Youth en Route’s perspective, there isn’t – and it’s badly needed. And while we know that every situation is different, we should have some aspirational goals.

Some that we’d like to see:

  • Direct routes mean not walking out of way to cross the road. Let’s set a target of 125 meters – between painted crosswalks across residential streets. If you’re close to a school, there should be crosswalks literally EVERYWHERE. This will improve sight lines (fewer parked cars) and should increase caution and awareness of drivers.
  • 50KM max speed on roads adjacent to a school.
  • 30 km/h playground zones adjacent to elementary schools – no matter if the school yard is fenced or not.
  • Crosswalk bump outs on EVERY crosswalk across residential (40/50 km/h) street going to a school.
  • Paved 5A paths across school grounds and park spaces to allow direct routes from adjacent communities.
  • A more transparent decision-making process. Let’s have OPEN Student Travel Advisory Group Meetings (STAGG) and or at least post a list of schools up for discussion and allow public input.

That’s a start. Do you have thoughts? Please contact us and share.

Being pro-active

Councillor Andre Chabot also provided some thoughtful commentary about the Pearson Infrastructure report that Youth en Route created in partnership with Sustainable Calgary. The report outlines suggestions for improvements in the areas around Lester Pearson High School in Pineridge. Chabot suggested that some of the student’s ideas probably weren’t feasible because there are many factors, including the warrant system, that go into city decision making.  (Warrants are data collected from police and other sources that detail safety incidents at a location.)

From Youth en Route’s perspective, we shouldn’t have to rely on any previous  incident to merit safety improvements around schools. We should be pro-active, preventing incidents before they happen, not reacting after.

We also know that as long as Calgarians perceive that it’s unsafe to  bike or walk to school, they won’t make that choice. Something as simple as crosswalk paint can change that perception.

Share your ideas!

Let’s keep this discussion going. While the committee approved this motion, it will go before a full meeting of council July 26th. In the fall, City council will go into budget deliberations and will make decisions about how to fund this work.

Here’s the full presentation to the committee.

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