Stratford council cracking down on school-zone parking

Stratford council voted Monday to immediately launch an education and enforcement campaign in an effort to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians during student drop-off and pick-up in school zones across the city.

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Stratford council is putting its full political weight behind city parking-enforcement and police officers as they push to curb rule breaking by parents and guardians dropping off or picking up kids from school.

At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Kathy Vassilakos introduced a motion – supported by the rest of council – that will soon see a concerted effort by parking enforcement, Stratford police, area school boards and Huron Perth public health to first educate and then enforce the bylaws in place in Stratford school zones to improve safety for both pedestrians and drivers.

“This has to do with traffic and pedestrian safety around schools and the amount of congestion that we’re seeing around schools,” Vassilakos said. “I recently had a phone call from an officer that I’ve worked with previously on the school-travel planning … (who said) things are not getting any better. In fact, they seem to be getting worse.

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“We have increasing incidents of parents and caregivers who are illegally parking – parking on two sides of the street making it impossible for other cars to get through. We’ve had incidences of city buses that can’t get through and are stuck, and any number of really dangerous situations around some of the schools in particular.”

In many cases, attempts by officers to get parents to obey the bylaws in school zones have been met with outright hostility, either directed at the officers themselves or at city staff fielding complaints from the public, Vassilakos said.

By working with police, school officials and other local partners, Vassilakos said the city could first work to educate the public on local parking and traffic bylaws and different ways to travel to and from school through a brief awareness campaign before embarking on a targeted-enforcement effort meant to reinforce the rules and curb that behaviour posing a serious risk to student safety.

“If we could get the Stratford police to work with our parking-enforcement department to co-ordinate blitzes around the schools, … I think harassment of our staff would go down. … and I think it would make sense if they started with the schools that have the biggest issues, and then work their way through all the different school zones. … I think endorsement from city council is needed so, when parents call up and they’re yelling at staff or complaining to the police, then they can actually turn and say this direction came from Stratford city council and they’re committed to making the zones around schools safer for children,” Vassilakos said.

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As part of her motion, Vassilakos also recommended city staff review the no-stopping, no-parking and other bylaws in the city’s school zones to ensure those rules and any related penalties are clear and consistent.

“We have to get the school boards involved and get all of the schools to send (this) out in (a) very quick newsletter within the next week or so because we want this education piece to be (delivered) in a very short timeframe,” Coun. Danielle Ingram said. “We’re talking like three to four weeks so that, within the next month, we have this implemented and we’re moving forward so it’s not pushed until the next school year.”

Along with the schools getting word out to parents, Ingram said the education campaign needs to be published on each of the city, police and health unit’s social media platforms so, when it comes time to enforcement, parents and guardians won’t be surprised when officers begin handing out tickets.

“It has to be very brief and concise and quick, and then we just have to start enforcing. I want to make sure we’re very consistent in the enforcement piece because if we’re not consistent … everything kind of falls apart,” Ingram said.

gsimmons@postmedia.com

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