Edmonton

Lightsaber-wielding grandpa volunteers as rogue crosswalk guard

Robert Davidson is a grandpa on a mission.

'I have twin, ten-year-old grandchildren that cross here twice a day'

Robert Davidson has been volunteering his time at a busy crosswalk in the Lendrum Place neighbourhood. (Tanara Mclean/CBC)

Robert Davidson is a grandpa on a mission.

Most mornings, he and his lightsaber can be found directing traffic on a street in southwest Edmonton.

Davidson volunteers to help kids cross the intersection at 51st Avenue and Malmo Road, a 50 km/h speed zone often busy with pint-sized pedestrians on their way to the three schools in the area.

Using the force of his glowing Jedi-style baton, Davidson wants to get speeding drivers to slow down.

"They do notice me, because when I point at them with my flashlight flashing and shake it up and down, they do slow down," said Davidson, 71. "So they notice me, and I like to think that it helps.

"Most of the school kids come through here. So I try to make sure they get across safely and make sure the traffic stops for them."

'It's just not safe'

Davidson, a retired church caretaker, began volunteering his time as a rogue crosswalk guard in the Lendrum Place neighbourhood last month, after his grandchildren told him that they didn't feel safe on the walk to school.

They attend Lendrum Elementary School, about three blocks north of the intersection where Davidson patrols.

"I have twin, ten-year-old grandchildren that cross here twice a day," said Davidson.

"And they said they were afraid to cross, because the amount of traffic and the speed at which the traffic goes through the crosswalk.

"So I took it upon myself to come out here and see for myself. And I agree with the kids."

I would like to see some more grandpas out here helping too- Robert Davidson

Davidson said the speed limit on the street is too high for the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area, and early morning drivers are often dangerously distracted.

He said he has seen drivers speeding, running stop signs and failing to stop for pedestrians. 

"That's scary to me, when I see the number of kids that come across," he said. "It's just not safe." 

A city spokesperson said 51st Avenue is considered a multi-lane arterial road, and the city does not enforce 30 km/h school zones on such streets.

Davidson would like to see the speed zones in the area reduced, and a more official crosswalk volunteer program launched in the neighbourhood.

He suggested other seniors in the area might be perfect for the job.

"I have a number of people and parents driving by who say, 'Thank you for doing this.' But I would like to see some more grandpas out here helping too," he said.

"I could certainly use more help and would appreciate more people coming out to help in the morning."

'It's a great way to start the day'

Whether or not more residents decide to help monitor the crosswalk, Davidson is happy to continue his one-man patrol. 

His grandchildren often reward him with hugs, and he's become a familiar face for neighbourhood children.

Even on the coldest mornings, it warms his heart.

"I hear 'good morning' in three different languages, in English, in French and Ukrainian," said Davidson.

"It's a great way to start the day."

With files from Tanara Mclean

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