As we approach the shortest day of the year, many Canadian kids are walking to school in the dark, which is one of the reasons why a 71-year-old Edmonton grandpa has taken it upon himself to volunteer as a crossing guard on a busy road.
“My grandchildren are twins and they’re 10-years-old. They told me that they’re afraid to cross the street here in the morning because of the traffic,” Robert Davidson said. “They said it was scary.”
“They said, ‘Grandpa, people are really going fast and sometimes they don’t pay attention to the pedestrian light.'”
After his grandchildren expressed concern, Davidson decided to check out the crosswalk at 51 Avenue and Malmo Road for himself. He’s been out walking kids across the street almost every day for the past couple of weeks.
“It’s scary for several reasons. For one, the volume of traffic is quite heavy. And the fact that much of the traffic does speed through here in excess of 50 km/h.”
“I think everybody feels a lot safer,” Andrea Misick, a mother, said. “He’s in the morning chatting with us. He’s asking us how our day’s going. And when he sees cars pass a little too quickly, even when someone’s not in the crosswalk, he’s waving his wand making them slow down.”
“He’s really friendly. He always brightens up our day. He always makes sure that the cars slow down,” student Shelby Misick said.
Davidson said he has already witnessed a few “close calls”.
“Last Wednesday, the light was red for the drivers. A woman came by speeding and I had to jump out into the crosswalk, hold my flashlight out like this, and she slammed on the brakes,” Davidson said.
The crossing lights are across from St. Martin Elementary School. There are also two other schools in the area. There’s a stop sign for drivers turning from Malmo Road onto 51 Avenue.
“From Malmo Road to 51 Avenue, they don’t always stop for the stop sign,” Davidson said.
“I’m a grandpa and I’m afraid to cross here sometimes.”
Although there’s an elementary school along 51 Avenue the speed limit is 50 km/h, instead of 30 km/h. School zones on arterial roads are generally discouraged, according to provincial guidelines.
“It’s definitely an issue. And we’ve been quite concerned about watching cars go by too fast regularly,” Andrea Misick said.
Davidson is hoping his story encourages other grandpas or grandmas to volunteer to help.
“If there are retired men (or women) out there who are looking for a morning project, what better way to get the day going then to help the kids get safely to school?”