A group of students held a walk in southwest Edmonton Friday in support of improved traffic safety two weeks after a classmate was hit by a school bus in the area.
Grade 6 students from Bessie Nichols School held a “Citizens in Action Walk” in support of improved traffic safety on Hemingway Road, which is located directly in front of Bessie Nichols and Sister Annata Brockman schools.
“Any time any of our students are impacted, that impacts our entire family, so we respond,” Bessie Nichols School principal Judith Boyle said. “Our Grade 6s have been studying democracy and they wanted democracy in action.”
On March 8, Devony Kasawski, 13, and another 13-year-old girl were struck at a crossing on Hemingway Road at 206 Street. Devony sustained a basal skull fracture, broken sinus cavity, broken pelvis, fractured sacrum, bruised lung, broken jaw and brain injury.
Bessie Nichols students had already written city councillor Sarah Hamilton about improved traffic safety measures to ensure drivers slow down, and Friday’s walk was their way of getting the attention of the public.
“They’re calling for more safe measures in our neighbourhood and they’re asking that the adults in our city take notice because this isn’t just a Bessie Nichols issue, this is an entire school issue,” Boyle said.
Devony’s sister, Talia, was one of the students who participated in Friday’s walk.
“We’re wanting to add some more speed bumps in and some marked crosswalks and the speed limit back to 30 km/h all the way through Sister Annata Brockman and Bessie Nichols,” Talia said.
Talia said she has not walked home from school since her sister was involved in the collision.
There are two school zones along the stretch of road where the speed limit is 30 km/h, but the speed limit jumps to 50 km/h in between the schools.
Devony’s mother, Tisha L. Kasawski, has also been calling for more crosswalks to be installed and a consistent reduced speed limit along the road.
On Wednesday morning, Kasawski was one of the speakers during a Community and Public Services Committee, when a recommendation was being considered to reduce speed limits for residential roads from 50 km/h to 40 km/h or 30 km/h.
“Three children in a week crossing that same street getting hit is just ridiculous,” Kasawski said on Wednesday.
“Obviously there’s something else going on and it’s such a wide road. There’s no markings on the road, there’s no meridians, there’s no crosswalks. It’s just a recipe for disaster at this point.
“Just because of the bends in the road and also that 500-metre space where it does increase to 50 km/h from 30 km/h, it is inevitable that people are going to get hurt.”
Boyle said she feels the effort of everyone involved is being recognized.
“Certainly our councillors are listening and that’s exciting, and for our students to know their voices are being heard and taken seriously,” she said. “I believe that our community is responding, just in fact of the phone calls we’ve received at the school.”
Councillor Sarah Hamilton was not able to attend the rally but said she supports the children’s initiative and sent a letter in her place.
“I applaud the children for participating in their democracy by demonstrating this is an important issue for them, rallying community support behind it,” she said.
In response to their specific concerns and suggestions for road safety, Hamilton said it is a challenge to install crosswalks and speed bumps in one neighbourhood when dozens of other communities are asking for the same thing.
Hamilton said council is working to lower speed limits to 40 km/h in residential neighbourhoods across the city. A draft bylaw on the topic will be brought back to council for debate on April 24.
“We’re looking at measures we can implement as a city to address the big issues. What are the levers we can pull to address the big issues, which is largely speeding in residential communities?” she said.
“One of the hopes of this motion was to get some of the demands for speed reductions in communities off the table and let’s re-evaluate and see if that changed behaviour.”
Police said charges are pending against the 44-year-old bus driver involved in the collision that left Devony seriously injured.