This morning and every Tuesday morning for the next three months, the road in front of an elementary school in Vanier will be closed entirely to traffic while officials gauge the impact of the pedestrian-only pilot project.
Alice Street in front of école élémentaire publique Trille des Bois, a school of about 620 students located a few blocks south of Beechwood Avenue, will be closed to motorists from about 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. every Tuesday for the next three months.
This Tuesday morning, Ottawa police were on hand to close nearby intersections with their cruisers.
School and community officials say speeding is a problem on the street, as is congestion during the busy morning drop-off period when some motorists make U-turns and sudden stops.
"There are lots of pedestrians and parents who take their kids there in a vehicle, which causes a lot of traffic to the point it causes a lot of concerns for parents," vice-principal Yolaine Brassard said in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.
Yolaine Brassard, vice-principal of Ottawa's école élémentaire publique Trille des Bois, said parents were concerned about congestion in front of the school. (Nelly Albérola/Radio-Canada)
The city councillor for the area said it's time for the school community to reclaim the street.
"A parent came to me and said, 'I'm scared because kids will play in the street,' and I said 'Yes, that's exactly it: we want young people to play in the street before school,'" said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante.
"We want the street to be for them, for pedestrians, for people who walk their dogs, for the neighbourhood."
Gatineau trial last year
The pilot involves Plante's office, city transit staff, school officials and Ottawa police.
It follows a couple of one-off closures there, and a similar trial at Gatineau's école du Lac-des-Fées last spring.
"It really had a positive effect by encouraging drivers to change their habits. That's also the goal of a school street [project]," said Patrick Robert-Meunier, executive director of non-profit traffic advisers MOBI-O.
He said anything that encourages people to walk or bike instead of driving is a health and safety success.
Plante listed road safety as one of the top concerns she heard in the last municipal campaign.
She said a successful school street pilot could mean more permanent closures around more schools, though it may not be practical at schools located along busy arterial roads.