New shrubs create dangerous situation

I think St. Albert’s aggressive tree removal campaign is excessive and disproportionate to the problem. Removing entire streets of trees creates scenes reminiscent of a clear-cut forest. However, I understand the arguments for replacing the unpopular poplars, so I’ve chosen to grit my teeth and turn the other way when I hear chainsaws screaming in my neighbourhood.

The shrubs that replaced the trees in one particular location, however, are something I can’t ignore. Trees on the centre boulevard of an arterial roadway near my home were cleared away several years ago and replaced with four foot high shrubs, creating a dangerous visual barrier from one side of the road to the other. Not a bad idea if you like the colour green, but I’m concerned about seeing the colour red. Blood red.

Although the centre boulevard is nice to look at, it’s clearly dangerous for pedestrians. School children and adults daily use the crosswalk next to this shrub wall. It is only a matter of time before someone is run over.

I spoke to city employees several times two summers ago and again last summer and fall, urging them to improve the sightline by removing three of the shrubs near the crosswalk. I emailed pictures of the road, including a video of me crossing the street and a car approaching, not seeing me until the last second. I pleaded with them that it was unsafe, and to please remove just three of the shrubs at the end of the median.

Eventually, despite my significant efforts, the shrubs were trimmed back and I was told not to worry. Sorry, but I’m still worried. Everyone knows that trimming hedges is not going to be high on a list of annual municipal maintenance priorities. This isn’t a slight on city workers; it’s simply a reality that there are more pressing things to do. The shrubs were trimmed well one year, but weren’t the next – and it’s not like I’ve got time to go around measuring sight lines.

And here’s the kicker: I was told that pedestrians need to be educated about making sure they see vehicles before they step out in front of them. Really? Although I’m in favour of street-smart kids, in order to look for cars before crossing the street, you actually have to be able to SEE the cars. Imagine that.

Cars traveling 60 kilometres an hour cover about 16 metres per second (or 52 feet for us old folk.) You don’t have to step out from behind a bush onto a street in order to test this. Just peek around it. Last weekend two of my young adult daughters peeked around that bush to see if any cars were coming. They watched a driver notice them, panic, and skid to a stop, and the guy behind him swerve and collide with his back fender. Thankfully no one was hurt, but do I really have to state the obvious?

I could have written about this issue any time in the last two years, but refrained in the hopes that due process would prove reliable. Sorry, city, but you’ve failed at this one.

The average citizen will recognize safety issues in their own neighbourhood more readily than a city employee who drives by for a look-see on their way to Tim Hortons. I haven’t said it yet but, “I told you so!”

One day a child is going to get run over and then someone will ask the question, “Who the heck decided to plant those big bushes in a spot where the child couldn’t see the oncoming truck??!” Well we know who it was and they know about the problem. Now what?

Dee-Ann Schwanke suggests that children walking dangerous crosswalks in St. Albert put on a helmet before proceeding. Dee-Ann and her family have lived in St. Albert for 13 years.


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