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‘Guards are in place and ready to serve:’ Victoria approves emergency crossing guard funding

Guards guaranteed at Hillside, Fairfield, Shelbourne and Quadra crossings through end of school year
A crossing guard helps students on a rainy day. The City of Victoria approved an extra $50,000 for the school crossing guard program to staff four busy spots in the city to the end of the school year. (Black Press file photo)

The City of Victoria has approved an emergency measure to supply local crossing guards with funding until the end of the school year; a decision its recipients say is the greatest assurance of safety for children at street crossings.

The unanimous decision at a special council meeting on Thursday (Dec. 16) gave $50,000 to the Greater Victoria Crossing Guard Association. Nearly all of that money will be used to pay seven crossing guards working crosswalks adjacent to schools on Hillside Avenue, Fairfield Road, Shelbourne Street and Quadra Street from 8 to 9 a.m. and 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. on weekdays, according to association president Audrey Smith.

“I can fairly say we are relieved that the motion passed, and appreciate that it passed unanimously,” Smith said. “The schools and communities that were concerned don’t need to be concerned. The crossing guards are in place and ready to serve.”

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A week ago, the crossing guard association had written to Mayor Lisa Helps that the last $21,490 received in 2021’s Strategic Plan Grant was “nearly exhausted.” Without new funding or the prioritization of intersections with remaining funds, they wrote they would be unable to provide services past Dec. 17.

With the additional funding covering off this school year, Smith said the association would like crossing guard funding included as an item in Victoria’s annual budget – similar to Saanich and Oak Bay – for their annual expense of around $58,000.

While supportive of the emergency motion, Coun. Ben Isitt suggested other avenues for improving pedestrian safety, seemingly as an alternative to continued crossing guard funding.

“I do support a two-pronged approach: I support the overall approach of making our streets safer with pedestrian-controlled crossings at the schools, (and) narrowing the roadways around the schools to make it a shorter distance for children to cross, and to provide visual cues for motorists to slow down,” he said.

Considering the width and heavy traffic of avenues and streets serviced, Smith said she found it unlikely that they could be narrowed to make crossing safer for children.

While the crossings in question, each traversing busy roadways, have lighted crosswalks, Smith said, “vehicle traffic is still hazardous based on the topography of the road and the visibility of drivers to stop far enough in advance – especially on wet roads.”

Although the association is in conversation with the city’s engineering department about what infrastructure additions can reduce the need for guarded crossings, “as it stands right now, I’m not sure what (Coun. Isitt’s suggestions) will do to truly safeguard pedestrian traffic,” Smith said.

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