HomeNewsAlberta City Seeks Ban on School Bus Flashers, Stop Arms

Alberta City Seeks Ban on School Bus Flashers, Stop Arms

Residents of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, an “urban” city 70 km (43 miles) south of Edmonton, are pushing the local city council to adopt a draft bylaw that would forbid school bus drivers from activating amber and red flashers as well as the stop arm during loading and unloading.

Wetaskiwin Traffic Bylaw 1781-11, if passed, would forbid school bus drivers to engage the eight-way lights and stop arm in city limits but would still require the equipment be used in crosswalks and in rural areas. The exact verbiage reads: “The operator of a school bus shall not activate the alternately flashing red lamps and stop arms on the school bus while loading or unloading passengers on any highway where such highway has been constructed with curbs and gutters.”

A city spokesman said the draft language was taken from a ban already in effect for Camrose, Alberta, a neighboring town about 20 miles to the east. He added the draft bylaw will go before the city council on Sept. 26.

Rick Grebenstein, the provincial transportation manager at Alberta Education, said it’s not uncommon in urban areas for smaller towns to ban the safety equipment from being used. The rationale, he explained, is that there is far less traffic in these residential areas than in the bigger cities, and the buses travel at lower speeds. Additionally, students are dropped off on sidewalks.

“A lot of people, especially in urban areas, view the school bus pick ups and drop offs very similar to transit pick ups and drop offs,” he added. “Students are not expected to cross the road when the bus pulls away.”

Grebenstein added that local politics is also a reason for similar bans. Many residents have recently moved to Alberta from eastern provinces such as New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and are surprised at the law because their previous provinces do not require the buses to have the eight-way flashers or stop arms.

However, Grebenstein said the hamlet of Fort McMurray, located 435 km (270 miles) north of Edmonton in the northeastern part of Alberta, rescinded a similar ban on flashers and stop arms last September.

The term urban also has slightly different meanings in Canada and the United States. According to Statistics Canada, urban areas have populations of at least 1,000 people and no fewer than 400 persons per square mile, based on the current census. These could be classified in the United States in some cases as a village or even a hamlet. All areas outside of Canadian urban areas are classified as rural. The 2006 census stated that Wetaskiwin had 11,673 residents.

Urban areas in the United States, however, have much higher population densities and are often considered a part of much larger metropolitan areas.

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