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Pilot project launches for Vanier school in an effort to reclaim the streets

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The morning school drop off isn't always easy for Leroy Wissing.

"Usually it's a bit chaotic; a lot of people stopping on the wrong side of the road," he said.

His daughter says cars speed down the road in front of elementary school Trille des Bois in Vanier.

"It's pretty busy sometimes and hard to cross the road because some cars are really dangerous; some cars go really fast," she said.

It's not just the speeding that's the problem, it's congestion too.

"We are almost 700 kids with 30 per cent being out of the catchments, so there's a lot of kids who aren't taking the bus or walking... they need to be driven in," explained parent Melinda Franco. "So, it creates this one way street. Sometimes it's a bit scary, honestly."

As part of a pilot project, police cruisers block a portion of Alice Street from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. every Tuesday, turning it into pedestrian-friendly street.

"I can understand it's inconvenient for some people, but the big picture idea is that we want to raise awareness for school safety during peak hours," said school board trustee Sonia Boudreault.

Coun. Stéphanie Plante is hoping the project will result in a bylaw specific to school streets that would allow closures for specific times during peak hours, like morning and afternoon.

"This is kind of the goal," she said. "Give the street back to the community, give the street back to the kids, and have people have that feeling of safety when they are going to school in the morning."

It is the first of its kind in Ottawa and is a collaboration between school and community officials, with police on hand to assist with traffic. Ottawa police say there is no cost, since resources are being used under the Neighbourhood Resource Team.

"When the cars aren't around, I feel safer," said student Clara Dehaerne.

The project is expected to last for three months and, if successful, could mean more road closures around more schools in the region.

"Fingers crossed we can do this here and across the city because we know this isn't just a problem in Vanier, there's problems all over the city," said Plante. 

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