A crosswalk outside of St. Joseph Catholic High School in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. The city has changed its policy on decorative crosswalks to ensure safety of its roadways. Under the new policy St. Joes catholic school will not be able to paint their crosswalk like previously requested. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

Changes to decorative or specialty crosswalks in the city are coming after council decided to change its crosswalk policy at Monday’s regular council meeting.

City administration based its findings for the new policy using the Transport Association of Canada’s (TAC) May 2023 report on specialty crosswalks.

“Administration has received more frequent requests for specialty crosswalks,” said Brian Glavin, the city’s chief operating officer. 

“These are things like the pride crosswalk, the friendship centre crosswalk (and) we’ve had a couple of neighbourhood associations and a school board approach us for these crosswalks to be installed on city roadways.”

The friendship crosswalk on 97 Ave. in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

The city currently has two decorative crosswalks: A rainbow on 98 St. and a friendship themed one on 97 Ave.

Coun. Dylan Bressey said the crosswalks provide “a sense of social inclusion” and belonging to those involved. 

City traffic engineer supervisor Robin Hutchinson said there are safety concerns within the industry and from the public about using decorative crosswalks. 

Hutchinson says TAC’s report found some pedestrians felt safer at decorative crosswalks compared to traditional crosswalks, but the crosswalks can be difficult for pedestrians with visual impairments and automated vehicles to detect.

He said the new policy guidelines suggest specialty crosswalks be painted within the standard black and white lines which helps those with visual impairments as well as automated vehicles. 

The draft policy includes an application process for specialty crosswalks, a $500/day fee for the city to provide traffic management during painting, and skid-resistant road paints to be used at the cost of the user group. 

A single amendment was made at Monday’s council meeting to remove the $500 fee for applicants. 

“(The) $500 fee that’s been recommended isn’t super significant in the grand scheme of the city’s budget (but) it’d be very significant (for) some of these groups.”

The policy also says designs would be considered ineligible if they are political or commercial in nature, discriminatory or incite hatred towards any group or individual, contain any inflammatory, libellous or obscene content, are unlawful or contrary to city policies, include distracting text or images or otherwise deemed unsuitable by the transportation director. 

“The crosswalks that are painted right now, I would argue our social and political crosswalks are meant to get a message across to people,” said coun. Chris Thiessen.

“It’s highly unlikely that something like the existing crosswalks, the friendship crosswalk or the pride crosswalk, would ever be refused on those grounds,” said Hutchinson noting it was meant more to exclude political parties and politicians. 

Council also passed a motion to ensure the pride crosswalk would be exempt from the arterial crosswalk section of the policy.

“I think it’s worth council be explicit that we expect this particular crosswalk remains,” said Bressey.

The policy also states that specialty crosswalks cannot be in a school zone. 

Hutchinson says the policy is following TAC’s national guidelines from the report. 

“Schools are seen as areas where there is the highest risk of injury to pedestrians,” he said. 

Shauna Baird, a classroom support teacher at St. Joseph Catholic High School, requested that the crosswalk outside the school be repainted in honour of reconciliation within the school environment.

Baird noted the crosswalk was currently in disrepair and hoped to partner with the city to repair the crosswalk while the school paints the crosswalk. 

A crosswalk outside of St. Joseph Catholic High School in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. The city has changed its policy on decorative crosswalks to ensure safety of its roadways. Under the new policy St. Joes catholic school will not be able to paint their crosswalk like previously requested. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Under the new crosswalk policy, the school’s request would be denied.

“The current requests that we have from St. Joseph’s would not fit with the policy and guidelines issued by TAC,” said Hutchinson. It would not qualify under the new guidelines for two reasons, one since it’s in a school zone and also due to the repair work needed to be done before the painting. 

“The crosswalk in front of St. Joe’s is in seriously bad condition,” said coun. Gladys Blackmore, who asked city administration when it would be repaired. 

City administration said there are no plans to repair the crosswalk in front of the school, as it says the crosswalk is not degraded enough to warrant replacement.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 27, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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