Reducing the number of cars on the road is more necessary than ever to ensure safety, according to a new Montreal Public Health report.
More than 430 minors were injured on Montreal roads in 2022 — an increase from 388 in 2021 and 250 in 2020.
Recommendations from the Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal come in response to the consultation of the Commission sur le transport et les travaux publics about safety and active travel on the way to school.
Anne Pelletier, head of the environment department at public health, says she is not advocating for banning cars, but she does want drivers to remember that school children are especially vulnerable.
"Because they're smaller, they're not seen as easily as an adult," Pelletier said. "They also don't move as quickly."
Data from the city of Montreal suggests that between 2013 and 2022, 36.6 per cent of minors who were injured in collisions were hurt on a school day. Of those injured, 22.8 per cent were in a school zone at the time.
Between 43 per cent and 52 per cent of the minors injured during that period were either walking or cycling when they were hurt.
Speed plays an important role in the number of collisions, Pelletier said, as does the amount of traffic in the area.
Major arteries, with their heavier traffic and higher speed limits, are also associated with a higher number of injuries, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.
As a parent, Pelletier says she understands that walking or cycling to school with small children isn't always feasible, which is why improving public transit and installing more speed bumps to help families consider options other than driving "would be a good start."
Pedestrian safety remains a priority, mayor says
Katherine Korakakis, president of the English Parents' Committee Association of Quebec, echoed the report's findings, saying that her association has repeatedly called for reducing speed limits in school zones and closing certain streets during pickup and drop-off hours.
"We even asked different councils to pass motions to put the safety of children before the rights of automobile drivers," Korakis said. "Children can't continue to be hurt going to and from school for goodness' sake."
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says that making streets around schools safer is a priority for her administration, and that "we need to do more."
The city's Programme de sécurisation aux abords des écoles — a school street safety program that welcomes project proposals on road safety from Montreal districts and supports their implementation — has helped make nearly 100 schools safer so far, she told reporters.
Some of the initiatives accepted include:
Building pedestrian refuge islands, speed bumps and curb extensions.
Adding bollards, traffic signs and bicycle racks.
Using colourful and textured road markings.
"There's always this tension between making sure that trucks and cars can go from one place to another," Plante said. "But we also absolutely want to protect our citizens, the most vulnerable — which are the pedestrians."