Bishop’s stu­dents plan­ning an “elec­tric week” of cross­walk protests

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - By Gor­don Lam­bie

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

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