Changes are coming to New Westminster’s community shuttle routes!

If you remember back to October 2015 you’ll remember that TransLink proposed some changes to New Westminster’s community shuttle routes. I was largely in favour of the changes, and a couple of people suggested modifications to the C9 route so that the current C3 stop on Jameison Court wouldn’t be lost.

Good news! TransLink released the Transit Network Consultation report today, and the New Westminster community shuttle routes will be changed to match those modifications, and the C9 route will be re-routed to include the Jameison Court stop!

This is great news. Transit service to Victoria Hill will hopefully be more consistent and reliable. Transit service linking Royal Square Mall and Royal City Centre / Uptown is restored. Jameison Court’s stop isn’t removed, although it looks like the C9’s frequency of service isn’t being increased from it’s currently hourly service, so this is probably a net loss of service to that stop.

All told this looks like a pretty decent win for transit service in New Westminster.

New Westminster School District’s Parent-Punishing Policies

My daughter has bronchitis. She has a prescription of Amoxicillin that she needs to take three times a day: morning, lunch time, and evening. She goes to school in New Westminster.

The requirement that she takes her medication while at school means that we, as parents, need to jump through all kinds of frustrating and punishing hoops.

First, there’s a policy that states that unless it’s an emergency (and antibiotics don’t count), designated staff can only administer medication to students if:

  1. The medication is required while the child is attending school.
  2. The parent has completed a Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  3. The physician who prescribed this medication signs the Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  4. The parent completes a Medical Alert Form that’s attached to the Pupil Record Card.
  5. The designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

Yes, seriously, the Student Heath & Safety Accident & Sickness Procedures, written to support Board Policy Number 504, states that the designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

That little bit of nonsense is beside the point, however. The chief problem is that these hoops are extremely onerous on parents. First, you have to know about this policy. The only way you can even hope to figure this out is by going to the School District 40 website, searching for “medication“, finding a single link to Lord Kelvin’s parent information page (really?), which then talks about the Request for Administration of Medication at School form, which is only available at the school office. Is that only for Lord Kelvin? Only for elementary schools? Who knows!

For some reason this search doesn’t tie into the actual Board Policies, because if you want to do a search of those you need to download a PDF of every policy and then search through that. Welcome to the 20th century. I’m shocked that we don’t need to fax the form in too.

So, here’s why these policies are overly onerous. About 15% of Canadians over 12 don’t have a family doctor. We don’t. We have to go to a drop-in clinic to see a doctor. A doctor at a drop-in clinic prescribed my daughter’s medications. If we had known about this Request for Administration of Medication in School form we might have stood a chance of getting it filled out at the time of prescription, but that would have entailed a) knowing about the form, and had we known about it, b) dragging a sick and infectious child to school that she’s too infectious to attend to pick up a form. Oh, never mind that she was sick last week, during spring break, and the school was closed so we couldn’t pick up the form in the first place.

Now to get the prescribing doctor to sign the form, one of us has to take time off work to go to the clinic (because this doctor only works mornings) and hope that when our name is called we can see that doctor. You see, at that clinic when a doctor is working drop-in hours you can’t make an appointment to see them, so you roll the dice and hopefully you get the specific doctor. If you don’t, I don’t know what happens, you wait even longer, taking even more time off work.

Okay, so suppose you just want to send your child with their medication and allow them to take the medication themselves? Not allowed. Medication isn’t allowed in the classroom, and it can’t be stored in the staff lounge either without this Request for Administration of Medication in School form.

But you know what you can do? Have a complete stranger come in and give your child their medication. Honest to god as long as you call the school and say “Joe Smith is going to give my daughter medication” that’s allowed. Of course, as a parent you can do that as well, but this unduly punishes the working parent who works in a different city, works at an inflexible job, or for any other reason they may be unable to get to the school to administer medication.

Even getting the form punishes working parents as well. We drop our daughter off at daycare around 7:30 am (before the school office is open) and pick her up after 5:15 pm (after the school office is closed) because we work. How are we supposed to get this important form without taking time off work? It’s punitive, it’s backwards, and it’s stupid. Join the 21st century and put the PDF on the SD40 website for crying out loud.

I know some of the School Board trustees for SD40. They’re great people, and they’re extremely focused on improving education for every child in New Westminster. But seriously, School District 40 is the single-most frustrating institution I’ve had to deal with in the past five years. Their policies are stupid and generally lack common sense (the first one I railed about was one that said that a drivers licence couldn’t be proof of residency, yet a vehicle insurance bill was), their website is outdated and difficult to navigate, and there seems to be this culture of doing everything to the letter of the policy. I don’t know if people at SD40 are generally concerned with covering their asses or getting sued or some other such nonsense, but as a parent it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.

This medication situation is the latest hot mess, and I just know that it won’t be the last.

Oh, and if you’re a parent of a child in New Westminster School District 40 and you’ve come across this post and have some of the same frustrations we do, here’s the Request for Administration of Medication at School form (obtained 29 March 2016, may be out of date depending on when you’re reading this post).

Stop shortening Qayqayt to QQ!

The newest school in New Westminster is École Qayqayt Elementary School. Qayqayt refers to the Qayqayt First Nation, the only registered First Nation in Canada without a land base.

On February 23, 2016 the New Westminster School Board approved a policy to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation, making this the typical first item on the agenda for School Board meetings:

The New Westminster School District recognizes and acknowledges the Qayqayt First Nation, as well as all Coast Salish peoples, on whose traditional and unceded territories we live, we learn, we play and we do our work.

That’s outstanding and commendable. It’s beyond time that we acknowledge that the lands we live and work and play on were not ceded to us by the First Nations people. It’s a time of newfound respect for those who lived and worked the land before Europeans initially settled our area.

So that’s why I really don’t like it when people shorten Qayqayt to QQ. Groups that should really know better, like the Qayqayt Parent Advisory Community, whose website is “qqpac.ca” and Twitter handle is @2QQPAC. Seriously, “qayqaytpac.ca” and “QayqaytPAC” are still available!

I’ve heard from one Qayqayt parent that they shorten it because Qayqayt is difficult to spell. Hey now, that’s a pile of hot mess. Take the five seconds to learn Q-A-Y-Q-A-Y-T. Seriously, it is the very least you could do.

It’s high time for everybody to show a little respect to the Qayqayt First Nation and stop shortening Qayqayt to QQ.

My 2016 Running Goal

I like personal goals. I like targets. And, most importantly, I like them being public.

Last year I had a goal of running a total of 500 kilometers in the ten and a half months before I turned 40 in mid-November. On November 15, I crushed it.

For 2016 I didn’t want to have the same goal. I wanted something a little more ambitious, but still achievable. This year’s goal?

Finish in the top three in my age group in an 8 or 10 kilometer race.

Does that sound too ambitious? It probably does, but let me explain why it actually isn’t.

Last year I ran in three races: the Modo Spring Run-Off 8k, the Vancouver Sun Run 10k, and the BMO Vancouver Marathon 8k. I’m 40, so I’m in the Mens 40-44 age group. Here are the top three times for those races, along with their 1k pace:

modo 8k: 28:53 (3:36), 29:08 (3:38), 29:50 (3:44)

Sun Run 10k: 31:39 (3:10), 31:50 (3:11), 32:38 (3:16)

BMO 8k: 38:07 (4:46), 38:33 (4:49), 38:49 (4:51)

I haven’t run an 8k or 10k race in under a 5:00/km pace yet. I came close at last year’s BMO 8k (41:14 chip time, 5:09 pace), but close isn’t good enough.

But since then I’ve been running. My fastest pace has been 4:36, albeit over only 5k, but that run was flat and felt really good. I could have gone farther but needed to get home. And that pace would have crushed the M40-44 category in the BMO 8k with a chip time of about 36:48, over a minute faster than the top finisher. Running around New Westminster is great training too, as the vast majority of the routes I run have decent hills in them, and hill training is a great way to become a better runner. For once New West’s hills are actually a good thing!

I don’t stand a chance of getting in the top three in the other two races because they’re stand-alone races. But the BMO 8k isn’t stand-alone, it’s run at the same time as the marathon and the half-marathon, so it doesn’t attract the same calibre of long-distance runners (they’re more likely to go for the half). It’s a fairly flat circuit through Stanley Park, and flat means fast.

So can I do it?

That’s the goal!

Seventh Avenue, Revised

Seventh Avenue in New Westminster makes up the bulk of the Crosstown Greenway, one of New Westminster’s cycling routes. It cuts straight across mainland New West, avoiding most of the major hills that make cycling in New West a little more difficult than in other areas. Nearly the entire route is marked with sharrows, with no separated bike lanes on it, other than one small part in Uptown.

Because most of Seventh Avenue has on-street parking on both sides, the central “lane” is often shared by bicycles and cars driving in both directions, which often leads to rather crappy results. There are a number of roundabouts along the route as well, which are good for calming traffic but are bad for cyclists as lanes get constricted and cyclists get pinched out by cars.

It’s time for New Westminster to revise Seventh Avenue and make it safer for cyclists of all ages. And here’s how.

First, let’s look at Seventh Avenue as it currently exists. I’m focusing on the stretch between Cumberland and Sixth, as this is used by children cycling to Glenbrook Middle School and the Canada Games Pool. This stretch is 8 metres wide with a 1.5 metre sidewalk on the north side only. It has two nominal lanes with sharrows. Street parking is allowed on both sides of the street.

This stretch is unique in New Westminster in that while it’s through a residential area, there is only one driveway on the south side of the street.Seventh Avenue, package view Every other home has a driveway with laneway access behind it. There are no streets crossing Seventh along this stretch, with only two streets intersecting with it on the north side. Also, if you look at the parcels map for the street you’ll see that there are wide grassy areas on either side of the street that are not part of the properties on either side. This is all city land, and can be used to expand the street.

So let’s expand it! We only need to increase the total width by 2.1 metres, just under seven feet. Then, we reduce the road lane widths to 3 metres, add a 0.6 metre divider (which could include flower planters or even a spot to plant trees), and add two 1.6 metre bike lanes. Allow street parking on the north side of the street, along the sidewalk, as is currently the case. Drop the speed limit on this stretch from 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

We can allow the driveway to remain by opening up the divider for the stretch right in front of it. Add a traffic bollard or two at either end of the opening to make the “car possibly crossing the bike path” location visible and obvious, while also protecting the ends of the divider.

This proposal fixes a lot of problems. First, by narrowing the travel lanes we make them safer. Second, by reducing the speed limit we make the streets safer for everybody — pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. We can add additional traffic calming such as speed humps to keep cars slow while not needing additional police traffic enforcement. Third, by eliminating street parking beside the separated bike path, we eliminate dooring.

This proposal does come with a couple of minor challenges, mostly concerning what happens at either end of the separated bike lane. At the western end, Seventh Avenue crosses Cumberland Avenue and enters the parking lot for the Canada Games Pool. This isn’t much of an issue as the Crosstown Greenway continues behind the CGP, and can easily tie into the bike lane. Crosswalk call buttons are already installed on the north side of Seventh; they can easily be installed at the south side. At the eastern end, Seventh Avenue meets with Sixth Avenue. Judicious use of green road paint can denote bike paths to access and exit the separated bike paths.

I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. It doesn’t address the problem of pinch points at traffic circles, and the interface with either end of Seventh Avenue is a little difficult to engineer, but I think it’s the ideal location for New Westminster to install the Crosstown Greenway’s first proper separated bike path.