Every day, scores of school students in Years 4 to 12 at St Edmund’s College and Years 7 to 12 at St Clare’s College in Griffith zip their way across Canberra Avenue.
That situation is leading to a considerable amount of concern for St Edmund’s school principal Joe Zavone, who wants to see the speed limit reduced from 60 km/h to 40 km/h to make it safer for students to traverse the four lanes of Canberra Avenue.
According to the ACT Government, around 20,000 cars use the road daily.
When Mr Zavone sees students trying to cross the road, most are doing so during the heavy traffic periods before and after school.
Students are crossing the road for a variety of reasons, including those who live in Kingston and walk to and from school each day, those who are crossing the road to go to local cafes located on the other side, and students and staff who use public transport rather than dedicated school buses to commute.
He says it’s not only school staff who are worried, but parents as well.
The school principal simply can’t understand why the speed limit on Canberra Avenue is allowed to remain 60 km/h, rather than it being reduced.
He previously worked in NSW where he says every road around every school – no matter the usual speed limit – is reduced to a 40 km/h school zone.
Those zones in NSW are slightly different from the ACT in that they don’t run all day. Instead, they are only in force between 8 am and 9:30 am and 2:30 pm to 4 pm.
“When I started here three years ago, I was just really surprised we have students crossing that road every day and it hasn’t been made into a school zone yet.”
Mr Zavone has taken his case up with the ACT Government, but he’s yet to get a satisfying response.
For the most part, he’s told school zones aren’t in place on arterial roads.
But that’s not enough of a reason for him, which is why he’s now taken his case to the ACT Legislative Assembly by way of a petition which Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has sponsored.
That petition has received strong support from parents at the school.
“I felt like I had nowhere else to go,” Mr Zavone says.
“I’ve basically been told the government won’t give any consideration to making Canberra Avenue a school zone.
“Am I just supposed to shrug my shoulders and watch the students of St Edmund’s and St Clare’s try to dangerously cross the road every morning and afternoon?”
A spokesperson for the ACT Government told Region that school zones are generally not provided on arterial roads – which are designed to carry large volumes of traffic – because school frontages are not generally on them.
“St Edmund’s has multiple school zones on streets surrounding the school, including for the school’s main frontage on McMillan Crescent,” they said in a statement.
“The ACT Government has engaged a consultant to examine pedestrian safety on Canberra Avenue and provide recommendations to make it safer and easier for students to cross.
“This work identified that a significant source of crossings is illegal parking along Canberra Avenue during school pick up and drop off times. Safety options such as bollards are currently being considered to address this.”
Mr Zavone is hopeful the ACT Government will work alongside the community to find a solution. He says he would be amenable to alternative solutions such as a pedestrian crossing.