Bishop’s students planning an “electric week” of crosswalk protests
In the latest step of what has become a nearly annual struggle, Bishop’s University’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is once again planning to take their concerns about community crosswalk safety to the streets. Coming almost exactly one year after the last crosswalk protest, the week of action has been planned in response to what SRC President Morgan Gagnon called “inadequate” action and a lack of communication on the part of Quebec’s Ministry of Transport, the MTQ.
“We gave them a deadline to respond to us and the deadline passed, so we are now planning a series of protests focused on crosswalk safety,” Gagnon told The Record, explaining that she took up the cause of trying to improve local crosswalk safety from her predecessor, Chelsea Mcclellan.
In a letter sent to the director of the regional office of the transport ministry, the SRC president recalled the fact that, under Mcclellan, the SRC held a protest in November of 2016 which led to an initial meeting between the MTQ and local concerned partners. A promised followup meeting, however, never took place. Although ministry representatives at the time promised an evaluation of what additional security measures might be needed at the college street crosswalk, the SRC president said that it is not clear at this point that anything has been done at all in the last year.
“We heard from the MTQ at the end of the summer and they have created minor pilot projects for two of the crosswalks on Queen Street but our primary point last year was that we need better measures at the crosswalk on College between Little Forks and Reed Streets,” Gagnon said. “This crosswalk is the most heavily used in Lennoxville.”
Given the lack of response, the SRC President said that she feels more serious action is necessary but, knowing that traffic in Lennoxville is an issue, she added that she wants to make sure that the focus of the protest is directed at the right people.
“I’m not in favour of disrupting the traffic flow,” Gagnon said, explaining that the point of the protests that are being planned is to educate and mobilize pedestrians and drivers alike. “This is something that unifies us; we don’t want to alienate drivers and non-students by having this conversation. It affects everybody.”
The SRC President said that people in the area can expect an escalating series of protests at peak traffic hours over the course of the coming week including a range of different tactics aimed at increasing visibility and awareness about the safety issues of the crosswalk.
Should the SRC not receive a response even after these protests Gagnon said that there is already a conversation underway about how to move the conversation ahead with more long-term action.
In her letter to the MTQ earlier this semester, Gagnon demanded an “adequate four-season plan that addresses our concerns,” but she clarified for The Record that the ideal, in her opinion, would be the installation of a dedicated light with a fixed crossing interval.
“It wouldn’t just be this free flow of students crossing,” the SRC President said, arguing that providing fixed times for crossing would actually improve the traffic flow problems on College Street.
Looking ahead to next week, Gagnon put the focus of the planned demonstrations on educating people and getting a local discussion started.
“What we really want to avoid is people being annoyed by the protest,” Gagnon said. “If people feel strongly then we want to make sure they take that up with the MTQ (...) We see this as an issue that unites the community, and when we are arguing for crosswalk safety we do it on behalf of both pedestrians and drivers, students and the community at large.”
Asked about the concerns expressed by the SRC President, MTQ communications representative Dominique Gosselin could only confirm that the students’ letter had been received and that a response including potential courses of action is being formulated