As part of a service-learning project in a citizenship class, five Grade 9 students at Horton High School were asked to choose something in the community that needed improving in order to make a positive change.
One group decided to focus on the current issues of crosswalk safety at Acadia and in Wolfville.
“One day, when I was training at Acadia Athletics Complex, we learned that a young woman was struck by a car at the crosswalk on Main Street at dusk on a rainy day,” says group member Shane Sommer, noting that the roads were closed for a few hours and the woman had to be airlifted out for medical care.
The crosswalk connects the university's main campus with the athletic complex, and therefore has a lot of pedestrian traffic, says Sommer.
“The lighting here is insufficient and there are no lights at eye level, and it is difficult to see pedestrians waiting to cross on either side, especially when the weather is bad and visibility is poor,” he adds.
Because this group of students — Sommer, Sophie Edgar, Reese Mills, Ryan Quigly and Caelyn Parker — spend a lot of time in Wolfville and at Acadia in extra-curricular activities like sports, music and arts, it was the focus of their efforts.
“One group member lives in Wolfville, one works part-time in Wolfville and many of us also support the local Axemen team events or cultural events in Wolfville,” explains Sommer.
The students wrote a letter to the Wolfville town council, proposing a solution to the crosswalk safety issue. The group was then invited to present their concerns during the committee of the whole meeting in May.
During their presentation, the students provided council with a better lighting solution, including the name of the company in Dartmouth that could provide and install safer lighting.
“We propose,” said Edgar in her presentation, “to install solar-powered rapid-fire lights at the crosswalks. These lights are easily visible in dark, rainy, foggy nights, making it much easier for drivers to be aware that a pedestrian is about to cross the streets.”
Edgar noted that in a town in the United States where she saw this lighting installed, officials said that car-pedestrian accidents were reduced by 50 per cent.
Estimated costs for the lighting improvements were also included, said Sommer.
As a council member, Oonagh Proudfoot says it delights her to see young people involved in their municipality and wanting to make it a safer and more enjoyable living environment for everyone. The initiative that this group of students is showing is to be celebrated, she says.
“When our citizens come to council to express ideas, concerns, opinions, or to ask questions, it shows that they are more than just living here, they are leading here. They will most certainly be our leaders of tomorrow. In fact, they are our leaders of today,” says Proudfoot.
Erin Beaudin, Wolfville’s chief administrative officer, and Kevin Kerr, the director of public works, echo Proudfoot’s comments.
“Meeting with students can provide the town with a fresh perspective and allows the students an opportunity to have input into public policy and understand how municipal government works,” says Beaudin.
Improving pedestrian crossing safety is a combination of things which could include lighting, signage, traffic marking and education so both the pedestrian and motorist are more aware. With this in mind, the Town of Wolfville is considering the technology the students referenced at the time of their presentation and hope to have new pedestrian crossing signals installed on Main Street at University Avenue this fall, says Kerr.
Sommer says it is important for youth to take a stand and make a difference in their community as they are the people who will be running this country in years to come.
“At this particular crosswalk, many of the pedestrians are youth,” says Sommer. “Someone has to make a change here, so why not us? Also, as a cyclist, and an employee of Banks Bikes in Wolfville, I am naturally an advocate for safe roads.”