As one who has lived in the community for quite a while, not bashful about engaging with community members about local issues, and dedicated to following the local and regional news as it arrives, I continue to be surprised with the consistency of what I am hearing as I visit door to door.
High taxation of residential properties is raised as the first ‘message to the city’ by, depending on the district, between 40% and 70% of those asked. Although a high percentage are generally very happy with the beauty and amenities, they also believe they don’t get the kind of service that justifies the taxes they pay. This is more prevalent in condominium developments where they resent paying for some basic services (like garbage removal) while still paying premium taxes for their property. They believe the process to be ‘double billing’ and unfair. Overall, many people believe they pay too much.
The painting of sidewalks and curbs is raised in a disproportionate amount of examples, causing concern about wasted money and an embarrassing feature of our otherwise beautiful city.
The ‘traffic circle and road to nowhere’ is routinely identified as bad planning and wasted cash.
Money wasted on select initiatives by the city, which are then ‘undone’ weeks later, are seen as poor planing, poor ‘checks and balances’ of administrative initiatives, and an opportunity to save the city a substantial amount of cash.
‘Change of the guard’ seems to be a high priority amongst many. Allowing the status quo to remain is seen as a sure way for SA to continue with high taxes and wasteful spending.
Degrading Hiway #2 into a ‘stop and go’ commuter street in the northern part of SA is seen as a failure to plan, failure to hold developers responsible for ‘access roads which would keep the major hiway flowing smoothly’ and an affront to the notion of an environmentally friendly community. The volume of traffic now forced to idle on SAT in the heart of our city because of the traffic light structure is seen as adding unnecessary CO2 to our air. Many are embarrassed by this contradiction.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to do…
I have been door knocking over the past few weeks. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet so many kind, polite and engaged residents.
This experience certainly reinforces what I know and believe about St Albert.
As I seek consensus about the issues affecting our community, I am hearing several common themes. Without doubt, high residential taxes is the first subject brought up by most homeowners. Several are now moving out of St Albert, explaining they can’t afford the tax rate. Others are asking for some relief. It negatively impacts a fair percentage of our residents.
To balance, I do hear from a much smaller number that they are completely fine with the existing taxes, they get better services as a result, and they knew coming in to St Albert that such was the case.
I hear that our community wants a reduction in wasteful spending by the City.
I hear that the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive is a priority.
Many are concerned that poor long range planning has resulted in today’s traffic congestion.
I continue to hear that ‘winds of change’ are coming. Many are not pleased with the actions of some (both elected and non-elected) in City Hall.
These are all issues that I believe deserve serious consideration by both the candidates in the upcoming election, as well as by those who will be going to the polls in October. The only way to affect change is with diligent examination of candidate platforms, clear expectations (ask the candidates!) and careful voting.
I will strive to address these and my previously identified issues if elected.
Traffic safety continues to be a discussion point for many St. Albert residents. It is particularly topical when a tragedy strikes our community.
Some residents believe that vehicle drivers carry the entire responsibility for traffic safety. Others suggest that new bicycle safety education, new signs, new rules, or new ‘trail barriers' should be initiated or installed in an effort to ensure we make our streets safe for all roadway users.
There are other traffic safety philosophies that deserve consideration in St. Albert. ‘Vision Zero’ has been adopted in several countries and cities, and can provide guidance for reducing injuries associated with traffic collisions. Wikipedia provides this useful definition:
“Vision Zero is based on an underlying ethical principle that "it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system.” As an ethics-based approach, Vision Zero functions to guide strategy selection and not to set particular goals or targets. In most road transport systems, road users bear complete responsibility for safety. Vision Zero changes this relationship by emphasizing that responsibility is shared by transportation system designers and road users.”
While we must consider infrastructure installations, we should also be examining our own behaviours. Most unsafe actions are already governed by existing legislation.
Adding physical safety measures (such as ‘off-set’ barriers on trail/roadway intersections) are appropriate in locations where serious visual obstructions or significant uphill/downhill grades exist.
Cautionary signs in specific locations may also be helpful. We must be alert to the possibility that if saturation occurs, the signs become a part of the visual ‘blur’ of everyday life.
However, I believe there are many other steps we as a community can take before we presume that simply dedicating cash to traffic safety solutions will solve the problems.
As parents and responsible adults in St. Albert, we are all accountable. We need to have discussions with younger citizens at every relevant opportunity about personal responsibility, personal safety, and the rules of the road. These discussions could be bolstered with an explanation of the reasoning for the traffic laws and why they are in place.
How do we establish personal accountability?
Parents need to closely supervise their children whenever possible. Don’t let poor judgement become the norm. Model safe and lawful behaviours, and routinely have discussions about why adhering to the rules is important.
Remind your family members why it is so important to detach earbuds whenever interacting directly in any roadway use.
Uniform officers should be always visible in the community, as a deterrent, and to have personal discussions with young persons to acknowledge correct road safety behaviours. They must talk to those who put themselves in grave danger by ignoring existing rules or simply demonstrating poor judgement. This doesn’t necessarily require a heavy hand, but a real consequence for dangerous and/or unlawful behaviours. It’s another layer of personal accountability.
Having an officer explain why a certain action was well thought out and safe (or inherently dangerous) is probably the only reminder many would need. This kind of uniform officer interaction will save more young lives than a new sign or new rule will ever realize.
Several years ago, St. Albert embarked on a very thorough and expensive pedestrian safety review. The Safe Journeys to Schools1 (SJ2S) program (… cost $4.4 million when complete) will include the installation of crosswalk signs, speed feedback signs, roadway realignment and new traffic lights in the vicinity of most schools in St. Albert. This project involved consultation with many user groups, planners, engineers, educators, parents and the RCMP.
Page 18 of the SJ2S report detailed traffic safety issues around schools. Of the top 6 issues, 5 were driver related. Of the total responses (530), 82% were driver behaviour related, not infrastructure related. It’s clear what needed to be fixed.
We should be reasonably confident that school aged children have been taught an age appropriate level of traffic safety by their parents, teachers and police (who are assigned to our school systems2). Bicycle operation and the related safety considerations should and likely would be part of that education. Adults have no excuse to be uneducated about all matters of traffic safety. But unsafe examples, both young and old, are evident almost every day.
I have seen groups of children (10 - 12 years old) walking against a wait light at a busy intersection near a school. They know better, looking firstly at the light, then laughing as they sprint across the road. Somewhere the message has failed.
I have seen adults and youngsters riding bikes without helmets, even though bylaws are in place to try mitigate injuries in the event of a bicycle collision or simple loss of control. I have observed adults pushing a baby stroller, with a very young cyclist in the group, all walking across an unmarked and uncontrolled intersection when a safe, well marked and light controlled crosswalk is immediately across the roadway. I have watched adults, child in hand, glance up at a pedestrian control light and then immediately strike out against the wait light. Or texting while they drive, with children watching this behaviour in the vehicle.
This modelling of inappropriate or unlawful behaviour3 certainly gives the wrong message to youngsters who then believe the traffic and safety rules are for someone else.
There is ample room to improve on the behaviours we already know to be safe. There is room to reflect on our own responsibilities and to teach our children the ‘why’ and ‘how’. And those who create a safety risk for others need to held to account.
We can all play a part in bicycle, pedestrian and roadway safety. The police, who are already an available community safety resource, must be fully engaged. It doesn’t have to cost millions of additional dollars to be safe. And we can’t wait until another tragedy occurs.