Longtime education assistant Caroline Thompson admits drivers do set off tears of fear on occasion while she’s acting as crossing guard at the intersection of Cook and Quadra streets.
It doesn’t happen often, but on occasion she feels forced to file police reports on particularly aggressive drivers.
“I’m a duck, I just let it roll off my back,” she said, a bit bewildered and a lot frustrated by the actions of some. “I’m just a nice lady trying to get kids across the street safely.”
Twice a day she does the work when students are heading to and from primarily Cloverdale Traditional School. But she also aids the average citizen walking in the area.
She is subject to people rolling down the window and shouting greetings of joy, as well as apparent hatred. By and large, drivers are courteous, friendly, generous and safe, she said, but there are enough that aren’t to be concerning.
Parents who use the route have seen several near-misses, with children left in tears because they were so close to being hit.
Parent Malakai Button figures she’s nearly been hit 10 times in the past six months – at times with two kids and a stroller, they’re a bulky group and should be visible.
“It’s just such a dangerous intersection,” she said.
The fear and anxiety she feels walking her kids to school spurred a petition started a couple weeks ago that is gaining traction online.
It outlines what they see. Drivers not slowing, or not stopping as the law may require, before turning with the right-hand lane from Cook to Quadra frequently treated like an onramp or merge lane, she said.
“Ideally, this intersection is so poorly designed that it should be completely redone, but in the interim there should be some things implemented for safety purposes,” Button said.
“It can be a challenging intersection for sure,” agreed Saanich Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair of the transportation advisory committee.
It’s one definitely on the radar, identified both in a Quadra/McKenzie study – it’s in the development phase now through March 2024 with a potential draft plan coming after that – and in the safer routes to school plan that revisits every school in the district on a rotation to identify and update concerns.
The lack of cycling lanes was identified in the last update in 2021, with the next look at Cloverdale scheduled for 2026.
But it’s not a new issue, Phelps Bondaroff said – in 2016, parents raised similar concerns.
What may also have changed is the school became a catchment school, likely adding to a boost in school commutes by modes other than vehicles.
Other relevant work underway is the impending review of the district active transportation plan, as well as a traffic-calming measures study, Phelps Bondaroff said.
“We can always do better of course, but it’s nice to know Saanich is on top of these things,” he said.
Most parents agree, Button said, that Saanich seems to care about safety and alternative modes of transportation. The intersection is likely to see a revamp, but the timing could be years out. Parents hope to see some minor, relatively inexpensive, aids considered in the interim.
“It’s really important that safety be a priority in our communities. Kids should be able to walk to school,” Button said. “I know it’s a priority in Saanich and there have been people killed – there have been kids killed – in our community, in the last many years and we don’t want to see that happening again. It’s preventable.”
Find the petition online at change.org.