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Speed limits dropping in Yorkton school zones

Other changes made too
city-hall - 2
Changes part of a a 30-month review. (File Photo)
YORKTON - The report to the regular meeting of Yorkton Council was long. 

The discussion which followed was protracted as well. 

But, in the end several changes in terms of school and playground safety zones were approved – most notably that all designated school and play zones, with the exception of the Gladstone North High School zone, be assigned a reduced speed limit of 30 km/hr. and further, that the reduced speed zones be in effect 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 

The change came about as part of a substantial review “to establish a consistent standard for School and Play Zones across the City so that children and families have safe access to School and Play Zones in our community,” explained Darcy McLeod – Director of Recreation & Community Services, with the City Monday. 

McLeod added, “There is no federal or provincial legislation to establish speed zones, therefore School and Park Zones fall under the municipality’s jurisdiction.” 

The review began in September 2019 when “City Council directed Administration to develop a strategy to establish safe play zones at City parks. Unfortunately, this update was delayed due to COVID-19, as staff responded to the pandemic and were not able to access community stakeholders for discussion,” said McLeod. 

Site visits to each School Zone and Play Zone was reviewed using the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) guidelines. TAC is a national non-profit technical organization that focuses on road and highway infrastructure and urban transportation. TAC guidelines are not legislated, but they do create standards that are recognized as best practices in all municipalities across Canada, he explained. 

Administration met with three Committees of Council (twice), all Yorkton school Principals and the Yorkton Active Transportation Collaborative (YATC) as part of the community engagement process. 

“TAC’s guidelines are based on the definition that Park and School areas should be designed to warn motorists of the possibility of typical, unexpected or unintentional child pedestrian movements onto the roadway at undefined crossing locations. These areas are typically designated near playground structures or other amenities that young children are attracted to, or gather at, and where the adult supervision ratio to child is low, minimal or not present at all. These guidelines take into account things such as provision of sidewalks, fencing around playgrounds or parks and the length of the property,” continued McLeod. 

Each Park and School in Yorkton was reviewed relative to the TAC Guidelines. The parks and schools then received a recommendation on the type of zone required, be it a zone, an area, or if it was required at all. 

Recreation was also a consideration. 

“Recreation and Community Services encourages residents to Get Out and Get Active, and one of our priorities is to provide low cost or no cost recreation opportunities. These are often found outdoors rather than inside buildings. Further, we live in a winter city, which experiences cold, dark snowy winters and accessing these low cost or no cost opportunities can also be a challenge. To address some of these challenges, we have provided lights at a number of our outdoor recreation facilities, for both summer and winter amenities. These lights ae left on until 10:30 each night to encourage people to get out and be active, year-round. Because we are encouraging this activity, and because we experience more darkness than some other communities, we need to ensure we make it as safe as possible for people to access these spaces. Lighting is one factor but so is ensuring safe travel to and from these spaces. Addressing the speed of travel will create a safer environment for children, youth and families to access these services and amenities,” said McLeod. 

In terms of reducing speeds “Pedestrians have been shown to have a 90% chance of survival when struck by a car travelling 30 km/hr or below, but less than 50% chance of surviving in impact at 45

“Administration is therefore recommending that all Parks and Elementary School Zones be reduced to 30 km/hr and be in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The High School Zones will continue to be 40 km/hr and will be in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Currently, School Zones and some Park areas are all 40 km/hr and are in effect from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. 

“The 24-hour designation provides a continuity of time for the speed zones and areas, which will be easier to communicate and remember, when travelling through a zone. Further, The RCMP have agreed that education will be a priority over enforcement and that enforcement is one tool that is used to obtain compliance. The 24-hour time for speed zones would also be another tool that RCMP can use to assist them when dealing with other issues in the community as well. 

“Administration recommends that these changes be implemented with the start of the school year in September of 2022, which would allow for signs to be installed and a communication strategy developed and communicated to the community, prior to implementation.” 

Other changes approved by Council Monday included; 

To maintain the southeast portion of the Columbia school zone at the current location, which exceeds the TAC Standard, and further extend the north portion of the Columbia school zone to the north of Independent Street, as per the TAC Standard to ensure driver’s sight before an intersection. 

That the Yield sign at the corner of Dalebrooke Drive at Parkview Road in the St. Paul’s School Zone be replaced with a stop sign.

That the school zone be removed from Gladstone Avenue south, which supported the old Simpson School, and that the crosswalk at Independent Street be referred to Administration’s crosswalk review process. 

That the existing High School zone, which has a speed limit of 40 km/hr, be maintained on Gladstone Avenue north of Smith Street and end after the Sacred Heart High School building.