Speed limit review upcoming for B.C. highways Ryan Lehal October 30, 2013 Those with the need for speed will soon have their chance to tell the B.C. government exactly how they feel about the current speed-limits on highways across the province and for some it is long overdue. The provincial government has called for a review of speed-limits along both major and rural highways throughout B.C., according to a press release from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure dated Oct. 4, 2013. “We want to ensure those travelling on our highways can do so as safely and efficiently as possible, and we’re interested in what British Columbians have to say as our review of speed limits and other important safety issues moves forward,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone in the press release. According to an article published in The Province by John Ferry on July 10, 2013, the current highest highway speed limit in B.C. is 110 km/h, unchanged from what it was listed at in the report for the last review of highway speeds which was produced by Michigan based Wade-Trim for the Ministry of Transportation in 2003. A decade later, Ian Tootill, advocate and co-founder of SENSE B.C., feels that it is about time the government is taking action. “They had the information ten years ago” Tootill said in an interview on Oct. 15. “The [upcoming] speed limit review is going to tell us what we already know and that’s that speed limits are too low on many roadways and highways.” Tootill along with SENSE B.C. argue that most speed-limits should be raised as a majority of motorists are already travelling well above the maximum limits across many B.C. highways. “We have demanded that speed limits be made to reflect the 85th percentile which is the upper end of safe travel speed for the majority of motorists” said Tootill. As explained on the Ministry of Transportation website, speed limits are determined by the 85th percentile principle. This means that speed limits should be set as close to the travelling speeds of 85 per cent of drivers under ideal conditions. The 2003 speed limit review also states that “a speed limit should seem too fast for a majority of users or it is not a maximum limit.” Critics of raising speed-limits have questioned whether or not motorists will choose to speed above the raised amount and also if the number of accidents will increase, said Tootill.
According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s (ICBC) ICBC’s facts on speed, obtained from their website, speed is “the leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C.” outdoing both impaired and distracted driving. Though ICBC’s senior media relations officer Adam Grossman declined to comment citing that ICBC does not issue speed limits and is not leading the speed review, ICBC’s facts on speed attributes these fatalities to shortened reaction times that higher speeds allow for. However, Tootill believes that speed itself is not the cause of collisions. Instead, speed variance is to blame. Speed variance refers to when there is a difference in travelling speeds between vehicles that are occupying the same stretch of road. “If you had everything on the road going exactly the same speed [85th percentile] and as long as there wasn’t an act of god . . . there would be no chance of a collision” said Tootill. The 2003 speed limit review also agrees with this logic. It includes a study conducted in 1997 and 1998 that raised the speed limits from 90km/h to 100km/h at three ICBC monitored test site. The result was a 12.9 per cent decrease in collisions. However, according to Sgt. Aaron Sproule of the RCMP Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstructive Service, probability for a collision doesn’t just come down to speed variance. “It’s very rare to pin down one specific causal factor as being the absolute causal factor for a collision” Sgt. Sproule said in an interview on Oct. 28. With most collisions there is going to be more than one causal factor. It’s not just speed or speed variance by themselves, he explained. For example, weather conditions and roadway designs must also be taken into account. Sgt. Sproule works in forensic collision reconstruction. Once an accident has taken place, his team will examine the scene in its entirety in order to determine how and why the collision took place. He personally believes that by tampering with speed limits, there will be no effective change in driver behaviour. “In the lower mainland, there is a tendency for drivers to exceed the speed limit” said Sgt. Sproule. “By raising the speed limits you’ll still see the same levels of speeding going on.” As part of the review, the government will hold, public forums in Vancouver, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Dawson Creek, Nanaimo and Prince George, starting in November of this year. If Tootill’s assumption that drivers are “voting with their right feet” each time they start their engines proves to be correct, then we may see the beginning of a new era for B.C. drivers.
Day in the Life Story ‘No Lion Left Behind’ Ryan Lehal December 4, 2013 “Headphones off and out,” says Mr. Nikkel, is the first thing that the Grade 10 students hear while filing into their assigned seats just as the bell rang to signal the end of class change and the beginning of second period English. A few stragglers can be heard opening the first set of doors leading to the classrooms at Princess Margaret Secondary School. After taking a few steps through the second set of doors, they emerge from the darkness of the dimly-lit entranceway dragging their feet along the carpet. At first glance, the classroom could be mistaken for a theatre with its extraordinarily high ceiling and dim drop down lighting. It’s not until you get past the bookshelves and poster boards that rows of individual desks appear facing back at you. Pop culture memorabilia fill the walls with U2 being the most popular, followed by the likes of Coldplay and The Police. Student work is a close second along with the eye-level row of wooden classic guitars that stretches almost the entire length of the wall furthest from the entrance. At the front of the classroom, beside the whiteboard, the theme continues with the great Wayne Gretzky and former Vancouver Canuck Markus Naslund as prominent figures proudly displayed. On top of the whiteboard resides a collection of a variety of license plates, none bolder than a Calgary Stampeders’ logo from Alberta, given as a gift from a former student to the Saskatchewan native. “Almost every artifact in my classroom has a story behind it, or represents some aspect of a story” said Mr. Nikkel. “Throughout the year I have a chance to tell stories to my students. I wanted it (the classroom) to be more interesting and less institutional.” Standing at the front of the class, sporting a Movember moustache, an analysis of the number of students that are present begins and there is a realization that a few have not returned from break. A voice from the back corner of the room informs the class that the students may be out in the hallway. “Snitch,” was the term heard coming from the group of boys sitting at the front of the class. Second period begins with the students sharing their ‘Have you ever’ poems from the previous day’s class. Each line of the poem starts with the phrase, ‘Have you ever,’ and ends with a student’s personal experience.
One by one the students are called upon to share what they have written with the rest of the class. For some, having to share their own personal experiences may bring about feelings of uneasiness, unsure about what their peers may think. This is hardly the case with this group. “Have you ever driven a car when you weren’t supposed to?” one student says. “Have you ever played basketball at 3 a.m.?” says another. The poems have the class talking about swimming with dolphins, experimenting with fireworks and encounters with the school’s vice-principal. As the students were sharing their personal life experiences, Mr. Nikkel would do the same. He tells them his own personal stories about what it was like growing up in Swift Current, or Speedy Creek as he refers to it. He tells them about the time when one of his friends had an accident while lighting fireworks and of the encounters he’s had with gorillas in Rwanda on his trip to visit schoolchildren. In order to get back on topic, Mr. Nikkel instructs the students to share some more of their poems, but this time without any chatter. Just after one student has shared his poem, another student questions its originality. “He already said that one” says the student. This prompts Mr. Nikkel to instruct him to read another line of his poem. Though Peter Nikkel, 43, may have been teaching at the Surrey school for 20 years, this is only his third year teaching a class where these are his only students. Mr. Nikkel teaches the Career-Explorations Co-op, which involves a group of Grade 10 students that were identified during the previous school year as possibly not making it to high school graduation. These students may be facing a variety of challenges that may be inhibiting them from succeeding, such as family or personal issues. Attendance was also part of the problem as students were not attending class regularly and their grades had suffered as a result. The co-op program combines these students with those identified as leaders, with the hope that they may have a positive influence on their peers. This distinction between the students is unknown to Mr. Nikkel at the beginning of the semester. For an entire semester the students are kept together with the same teacher, except for when they go on a three-week work experience stint that occurs twice throughout the semester. Work experience jobs can vary from part-time retail or fast-food work, to job shadowing in professional environments such as veterinary clinics or a dental technicians office. These positions are usually chosen by the students. Throughout these six weeks, Mr. Nikkel travels around town to check-up on his students to see how they are adapting to their new environments. Normally a music and English teacher, Mr. Nikkel’s job has changed to teaching his co-op class the required courses of English 10, Social Studies 10 and Planning 10 throughout the semester.
It has been quite the transition for Mr. Nikkel, who has gone from interacting with four different classes of students on a daily basis to spending the entire semester with the same group of students. “It’s more like an elementary school where you’re with the same teacher all day and I was worried about that” said Mr. Nikkel. “I never thought I could handle that type of teaching but it didn’t end up being as much of a problem as I thought it might be.” Staying together as a group has been one of the more helpful tools in not only for student learning, but also for adjusting to a new kind of life for a high school teacher who is used to having a little more space and distance from his students. “It’s a little bit easier for accountability and attendance and it’s harder for them [students] to fall through the cracks or avoid teachers when they’re with one teacher all day” said Mr. Nikkel. “It’s easier to have routines, we’re able to follow the news, we do current events every day at the same time and the best part of it for sure is getting to know the students on a deeper level.” One of the methods that Mr. Nikkel has implemented to uncover some of the issues that each individual student is facing has been through the use of a personal daily diary. At the beginning of the semester, Mr. Nikkel has his students watch the movie Freedom Writers, which is similarly about a high school class made up of at-risk youth students that are dealing with many of the same issues that Mr. Nikkel’s students encounter on a daily basis. In the film, the students are instructed to write daily diaries about the challenges that they come in contact with. “That’s probably been the single most effective tool for helping students to get to know themselves and uncover some of the issues that they’re facing and be able to express them in a safe way [in order] to get help to be more successful” said Mr. Nikkel. The emphasis on self-reflection is a common theme, found throughout the semester. To be able to allow the students to feel comfortable in sharing their personal experiences with the rest of the class, Mr. Nikkel has acknowledged that he must first create an environment that encourages them to do so. “I try to model with all my classes a willingness to be vulnerable myself and hopefully that rubs off on them” said Mr. Nikkel. “I bring content into the classroom that is a little bit more fun I think to work with where it’s easier for them (the students) to come up with responses. “The format is so easily laid out [with the ‘Have you ever’ poems] that you just have to fill in the blanks, yet it’s probably a more powerful poem than if I had just said write a poem about your own experiences.” Back when Mr. Nikkel was in high school, it was his Grade 11 Social Studies teacher who had first exposed him to this teaching style.
“He had a way of relating to teenagers that was different” said Mr. Nikkel. “He respected us and I remember he seemed to realize that we had lives outside of the school and understood us in a different way.” From that point on, Mr. Nikkel knew that becoming a teacher seemed like a realistic career choice for him. He knew that he specifically wanted to work with teenagers and for 17 years he had spent a countless number of hours interacting with of different Princess Margaret students’. However, the opportunity to lead the co-op program and devote his time to only a certain amount of students, designated as at-risk, was an intriguing challenge. It was though, not the only deciding factor. “The challenge and the fact that someone who knew me fairly well thought my skill set would work with these particular kids” said Mr. Nikkel, helped to make his decision. That individual was former vice-principal of Princess Margaret Secondary and long-time colleague of Mr. Nikkel, Mr. Paulo Sarmento. Prior to establishing the co-op program at Princess Margaret in 2010, Mr. Sarmento, now the principal of L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, was a part of the staff at another Surrey school, Frank Hurt Secondary, where the program had originally been implemented with success. “The idea of the co-op is to have a teacher who cares about these kids, works hard to help them, but understands that half- the -battle is getting them to school” said Mr. Sarmento. “You need to have somebody who is willing to forgo the curriculum at times to make a classroom where the kids feel safe and feel welcome.” For 17 years, Mr. Sarmento had known how good of a teacher his colleague was and how much he cared for his students and tried to connect with them on a deeper level, much more than any other teacher he had seen. It was once he became an administrator at the school that he really saw what Mr. Nikkel had meant to the students. “What I saw in him as an administrator was the care that he did have for the kids and how much the kids liked him and liked being with him” said Mr. Sarmento. “That’s another half-of- thebattle. It’s not only that you care about the kids, but that the kids know that [you care] and they want to be with you. Then they will go to class and they will learn.” The co-op program has been a success at Princess Margaret Secondary as the majority of students have been able to move forward in their education careers, while others take solace in the experiences they have had on the job. “The surprising thing is how much they (the students) realize that school is a lot easier than working” said Mr. Nikkel. “Some of them just can’t wait to get back to school after three weeks of a job.
“I’ve got students in Grade 11 from my class last year and I think that basically the ideal is to keep kids in school and give them renewed hope and vision for their education. It’s happening.” In the afternoon, third period Social Studies takes place in a classroom just down the hall from the morning’s sanctuary. This classroom is more of the typical variety with bright lights and very few items hanging on the walls, except for a few educational posters. Silent reading is first on the agenda for this period, which is quite an unpopular choice amongst the students. Sitting in the front corner, furthest away from the teacher’s desk, one student has hidden his phone inside the front cover of his book and begins texting. Others are merely staring into space as a few begin to read. “This book isn’t even about hockey” one student says. “It just talks about conditioning.” “Do you want to read about Bobby Orr?” Mr. Nikkel asks. The student rejects claiming that he would rather read about the new era of hockey. “Don’t give up on it just yet” Mr. Nikkel responds. “Give it another 10 minutes.” Another teacher soon walks through the doorway carrying a stack of folders that contain all of the information the students will need for their upcoming work experience. The students give her their full attention as she reviews the steps in applying for a job interview. Hanging at the top of the wall across from the doorway and overlooking the students is a sign that bares the school crest of a lion’s head. It reads, “P.R.I.D.E – Participation, Respect, Inclusion, Dependability, Effort – No Lion Left Behind.”