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Traffic concerns persist at Vancouver St. John’s School in wake of expansion

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After school at St. John’s. Photo: Stacy Thomas

St. John’s School, a “destination” international baccalaureate school on West 10th Ave., is in the process of expanding. They completed phase one of construction in 2011, and will complete phase two by September of 2013, adding a third building between the two existing ones where the courtyard is now. This will bring the school’s capacity to 558 students from 342 in 2009, according to a 2009 report.

When the school applied for the redevelopment, they were required to submit a traffic management plan in response to concerns from the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, (now the Transportation Action Policy Council) as the school is situated on the second busiest bike route in the city. They did so in June of 2009. The plan included implementations that the school promised to undertake under condition of their application’s acceptance, and specific goals which were to be met by 2011.

The concern was that as more than 75 per cent of the students were driven to and from the school, the increased capacity would cause traffic problems for those cyclists who shared the route.

A year on and still waiting . . . 

Brent Dozzi from the Neighbourhood Parking and Transportation Branch of the city told me that several of these recommendations are still pending, including:

The school was to produce a brochure to distribute to parents on how to reduce traffic around the school. This has not been done.

They were to conduct and produce results of an in-class poll to determine how many parents are driving their children to school and from where, in order to better recommend efficient traffic management polices. This also has not been done.

They were to create a Community Liaison Group which would meet with public stakeholders such as cyclists and community members once every month or two. Again, not done.

More on the way

The school is applying to add a junior kindergarten next summer, which will mean an addition of 28 children, 14 in the morning and 14 in the afternoon.

The city is requiring amendments be made to the original traffic management plan before it approves the application, and is requiring that Bunt & Associates, the firm that designed the plan, are to update the city as to exactly which actions have been implemented so far at the school.

Although the city is waiting for the amendments before signing off on the kindergarten, the school has already announced it on their website. Dozzi was not aware of this when I spoke with him.

A nuisance for cyclists on an otherwise quick route

Lisa Slakov, from HUB, a cycling advocacy group in Vancouver, said the area is a “well known problem area,” and there are ongoing discussions about the spot.

Jane Hamilton, a cyclist who commutes along the route to her job in the DTES, says she often turns left and rides along Broadway to avoid the school zones in the area.

“It’s horrible,” she says. “It’s really bad. They’ll park, and then they’ll pull out, and don’t look.”

“I can see if they have a kindergartener they want to drop off in right in front,” Hamilton continued, “but a big part of that [St. John’s] school is international students and high school students. They can be dropped off in a variety of places. They don’t have to be dropped off in front. Why are they so obsessed with dropping their 17-year-old son off right in front of the door?”

“I think they should have drop off points that are scattered,” she said.

A spokesperson at St. John’s School said he is unable to answer my questions, but has met with the city to discuss options.

Reported by Stacy Thomas

This post first appeared on Thomas’s Westside Vancouver Newsbeat blog.

The Voice Online’s At Large section features blog posts on municipal beats including Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, Delta and Metro Vancouver produced by Langara journalism students.

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