‘Close calls’ at crossing

Firgrove Way, Constantia Hills.

Speeding cars and a largely ignored pedestrian crossing outside a Constantia Hills school are a recipe for tragedy, say both residents and the school.

There have reportedly been several near-misses between speeding cars and pupils dropped off on the opposite side of the road from the Cape Academy for Maths Science and Technology.

The pedestrian crossingis not directly opposite the school entrance in Firgrove Way so many pupils disregard it when crossing the road

Constantia Hills Community Watch chairman Michael Burchell says the crossing isn’t raised like a speed hump so it can be easy to miss from a distance.

Most of the close-calls between the pupils and speeding cars have happened during winter when it is darker as there are no lights on Firgrove Way.

The school has installed floodlights at the entrance, but Mr Burchell said there had still been near-misses.

“Just recently, someone told me that he almost got into an accident when the car in front of him had to brake unexpectedly because a child was running across that street. Luckily, he was able to swerve onto the gravel road on the side, but an accident could have happened.”

The school and residents say they have appealed to the City’s traffic department for the past two years to do something.

“Nothing has come to light except excuses as to why they are not willing or able to do anything,” said Mr Burchell.

The academy’s property manager, Wilfred Nolan, said the school had offered to provide two of their security staff to be trained as crossing officers, but the City had withdrawn its offer to train them.

Mr Burchell said the City had offered to post a crossing officer at R160 a day, but the school couldn’t afford that.

Mr Nolan said the City had told him scholar patrols were only active at primary schools.

Tim de Villiers, a senior City traffic engineer, said pupils could run a scholar patrol, irrespective of whether the school was a high school or primary school. Such an initiative could also teach children about traffic rules.

“This is not exclusive to primary schools. Further, as high school learners, they should learn how to cross the road responsibly using the pedestrian facility, especially in light of the concerns of the school,” said Mr De Villiers, noting that traffic services were thin on the ground.

“A dedicated person on duty would be beneficial. I know numerous schools are very serious about access and safety and security and they utilise either groundsman or staff to manage the situation.”

Mr De Villiers said the pedestrian crossing could also be moved closer to the school entrance but only by about nine metres as there should be a minimum of one car length before the stop line at the school.

“This involves filling in and extending the parking embayment opposite by the same distance, which could easily exceed R100 000 and, as human nature has it, it is likely that the learners will still not cross the road directly opposite the school gate.

“Walking out from between vehicles to cross the road is hazardous as the approaching motorist cannot see the pedestrian soon enough, and the pedestrian has not got sufficient sight distance to determine the car speed or see it in time.’’

He suggested putting a railing along the kerb edge to guide pupils to the pedestrian crossing.

“Here again, a responsible person should be present to guide learners from the school and report those disobeying the measures.”

Hillstar Traffic Department assistant traffic chief Paul Oliver said he was prepared to help the school establish a pilot scholar patrol next year.

“The training of learners can be done in January 2020 in order to facilitate the need to cross roads around the school in a safe manner. Each scholar patrol unit usually consists of five members each. We usually train a maximum of 10 learners to accommodate for various circumstances which may arise.”