As thousands of students will return to school in a few weeks, Ensemble Montréal is proposing measures to secure their journeys to and from school. The Official Opposition spokesperson for active transportation and youth, Ms. Alba Zuniga Ramos, and the spokesperson for public safety, Mr. Abdelhaq Sari, held a press conference on Tuesday morning to ask the administration to enhance the School Street Safety Program (PSAÉ) as well as the resources and services offered by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
“For years, we have been very concerned about the safety of the most vulnerable on Montreal’s streets. We have collectively agreed that more needs to be done, and it needs to be done better. Now is the time for action. Ensemble Montréal proposes that the City review its strategy such that all schools can benefit from traffic calming and safety measures,” said Ms. Zuniga Ramos.
The latter gives the example of the intersection at the corner of du Fort street and Sherbrooke West street opposite to the Collège de Montréal, which, like many others in Montreal, deserves to be made safe quickly, given that between 2012 and 2021, 32 collisions involving a pedestrian or cyclist occurred within a 50-meter radius of this school, which is home to some 1,400 students.
To offer a safe environment for all of Montreal’s students, Ensemble Montréal is asking for a review of the selection criteria that determine which schools receive funding from the PSAÉ so that the program no longer disfavours schools located near arterial roads. For context, although arterial roads often present a higher level of danger than local roads, redesigning them to be safer is generally more expensive. As a result, schools located near these roads rarely benefit from PSAÉ funding, as it is awarded in large part based on a project’s estimated costs. The Official Opposition finds it nonsensical that schools near arterial streets, often with a significant number of collisions, are not given top priority. These schools ought to be prioritized, not disfavoured.
Given that 71% of drivers exceed speed limits near schools and parks, Ensemble Montréal joins the Parent Committee of the Montreal School Service Center (CSSDM) in demanding better monitoring by the various authorities. In addition to increasing police presence near schools, an increase in the number of school crossings secured by crossing guards is needed. It is worth noting that, in Montreal, the number of school crossings has remained the same for two decades. This is in spite of the fact that the number of schools in Montreal has increased in the past 20 years.
Parents, along with school service centers, administrations, and establishment councils are best suited to provide testimony regarding the safety issues around schools, as they experience these issues firsthand. Therefore, enhanced collaboration between the City of Montreal and these partners is necessary. They should be included through consultations on what safety measures to implement around schools during the planning stages of these safety measures.
“We need to secure as many schools as possible and prioritize the most critical intersections. Currently, some schools are put on the backburner simply due to cost issues. Safety should never be a question of money. The safety of our citizens is priceless,” added Abdelhaq Sari.
The Official Opposition’s motion to secure travel around Montreal’s schools will be presented at the City Council meeting on August 21.