A pilot program that saw roads closed to traffic near a North Kamloops elementary school is being celebrated as a success.
The Safer School Streets pilot started at Arthur Hatton elementary two weeks ago, on May 9, in an effort to get students to avoid driving to school, but also to get outside and play.
It was implemented by SD73 and the City of Kamloops, but Supt. Rhonda Nixon told Castanet Kamloops a lot of the progress is due to the school’s principal, Mike Johnson.
“I think what’s been by far the most success is seeing the kids so excited to ride to school,” Johnson said.
“I was actually just talking to a student and she was telling me before this pilot program started she always got a ride. She’s ridden her scooter every day for the past two weeks. [She told me] how much she’s actually enjoyed it.”
Marshall Smith, a student at Arthur Hatton, said he never used to walk to school, but for the past two weeks he has been walking 30 minutes every day. He said he will keep walking for the rest of the school year.
“The thing is I really love walking down here and enjoying the fresh air — that's what I love about here,” Smith said.
Johnson said Smith is not alone.
“It's been wonderful to see that and just those small stories of kids that never used to walk and now are walking,” he said.
While the response from the students has been overwhelmingly positive, some residents and drivers had complaints about the project.
“We did receive a handful of complaints that the people that were a little bit frustrated about circulating the area [and] dropping kids off at other schools — there was some increase in travel time,” Spencer Behn, City of Kamloops transportation engineer, told Castanet.
“Overall, we received fairly minimal complaints, which we would consider a success from a traffic management standpoint.”
Many parents on hand Friday at a wrap-up celebration were excited about the pilot and happy to see their kids active and feeling safe around the streets.
“[My favourite part was] having the road closed. Allowing my son to actually play on the road and you don't see that very often anymore — kids playing on the road and feeling safe about it,” said Sarah Fan, a parent from the school.
Fan said that if this was to happen again, she would want to see more of the community involved.
“I'd want even greater community involvement," she said.
"If we got even more people involved, I think that'd be even better."
A lot of the project’s triumph can also be attributed to the many volunteers on site, including volunteers from the GoByBike program.
The volunteers were at the school every day to help encourage the kids, and had draw prizes and other free items for the participants.
“My favourite part is watching the progression from the first day. There [was] a little bit of hesitancy at the beginning. And then towards the end, just seeing the influx, there's more kids biking [and] more kids on scooters,” said Jamie Lintott, a volunteer with GoByBike.
While the project was seen as a success by so many, it may be a while before the city organizes a similar pilot again.
Heather Grieve, chair of the SD73 board of education, said that in order to have another project, officials need to analyze all the data they have collected.