The new community safety zone in St. Davids was celebrated Thursday at the public school, where the designation is considered a positive step for student safety.
As drivers pass by St. Davids Public School along York Road, from Queenston Road to Concession 3, signs, which were up in time for the start of the school year, warn that fines for speeding through the area could be doubled.
Carolyn Ryall, regional director of transportation services, told those gathered at the school the goal of community safety zones is to modify driver behaviour and improve safety on specific sections of roads within the Niagara region. The Region approved the designation for St. Davids this summer, and another area in the town of Lincoln.
In considering the need for a community safety zone, the Region looks at the number of safety and speeding complaints and violations at specific locations, collision history, and the number of students and families walking to school, she said.
The request for the community safety zone in St. Davids goes back to July, 2017, when the previous council agreed to ask the Region to look at improving safety for pedestrians in the village.
York Road begins with an 80 kilometre-an-hour speed limit, which is reduced to 60 km/h as it approaches the village and then 40 km/h through the school zone.
The police have increased their presence in the area, first issuing warnings from Sept. 3 to 15, Inspector James McCaffery told those gathered at the school for the announcement, and then issuing fines for speeding and other offences in the weeks since, in an effort to change driver behaviour.
He said most drivers have been supportive of the community safety zone — although not all who were ticketed.
The message, he said, is “drive safe, stay safe,” and promised the police will continue their presence in the village.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero thanked all involved for helping to get the designation approved, once council sent the request to the Region. Everyone worked together to ensure the safety of the community, and the children who walk to school, she said.
Regional Coun. Gary Zalepa said the Region is committed to healthier living, and given the benefits of an active lifestyle, “students thrive.”
The event also marked October being International Walk to School Month, an annual celebration of active transportation taking place around the world, he said.
The community safety zone initiative is a commitment to the safety of the community of St. Davids and St. Davids School, he said.
The initiative is the result of the partnership of the St. Davids Residents Association, the Niagara Regional Police, the school board and the Region working together.
In addition to addressing the speed of drivers, the lack of sidewalks in the village for kids walking to school is another component of the problem, he said.
The traffic at the intersection of Four Mile Creek Road and York Road, is also a consideration, said Zalepa, with the future reopening of Mewburn Road part of the solution.
“The residents of St. Davids can rest assured we’re looking at safety measures for St. Davids.”
School principal Tracey Leemet said there are about 60 to 75 students who live close enough to walk to school — the majority of students are from the rural area and the Glendale neighbourhood, and are bused. Even some who live in nearby subdivisions take the school bus, she said, because of the lack of sidewalks on their route, but for those who can walk, the community safety zone is a great initiative to help keep them safe.