Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Philip Bellefontaine, Transportation Planning Manager for the City of Surrey.
The City of Surrey will not be upgrading safety measures at a Clayton crosswalk where an 18-year-old pedestrian was struck earlier this month, after a formal review process declared the crosswalk already meets “nationally accepted criteria.”
The City began the investigation into the crosswalk, located at 190th Street and 72nd Avenue, when concerned resident Christina Holland contacted them after witnessing a Jeep hit an 18-year-old woman on Jan. 11.
Holland said she later learned the victim was released from hospital and was at home resting the morning after the crash. Worried that a fatal accident may occur at that same intersection, she contacted the City of Surrey, asking that a pedestrian-controlled stop light be installed.
The City of Surrey undertook a formal review of the crosswalk and responded to Holland’s request with their findings on Wednesday morning (Jan. 31), explaining that they would not be installing a pedestrian light.
“The City utilizes nationally-accepted criteria to determine appropriate crosswalk treatment at pedestrian crossings,” read the email sent to Holland. “City staff visited the location to assess the situation, and based on the collected traffic and pedestrian volume data and other road characteristics, an upgrade to include flashing lights or a signal is not warranted at this time.”
The email then noted that the “nationally accepted criteria” is currently under review, and new guidelines are expected to be published later in 2018.
“Once the new guidelines are available, we will be using the revised criteria to evaluate crosswalks throughout the city for possible improvements. Please be assured that this intersection will be reviewed with priority.”
The City stated that they plan to modify parking restrictions at the intersection in an attempt to improve driver sight lines and pedestrian visibility. Three angle parking spots will be removed in the northeast corner of the intersection.
Holland took to social media after receiving the email, stating she was “livid” and the City of Surrey had disappointed the community. “This is NOT OVER!” she wrote, declaring that she would schedule a door-to-door petition and a protest in support of crosswalk improvements.
“I am not pleased. I’m very disappointed,” Holland said in an interview with the Cloverdale Reporter. “It doesn’t seem to matter to them.”
Holland, who runs a daycare in the area and has children of her own who use that crosswalk on their way to school, said the pedestrian who was struck “could easily have been a five-year-old kid.”
The City offering the removal of three parking stalls at the intersection is “laughable,” according to Holland.
While she admitted it would make sight lines better on one side of the street, Holland said removing the stalls would not improve visibility on the side of the street where she witnessed the 18-year-old pedestrian being struck.
“There’s not even a streetlight above that crosswalk,” she said, explaining that one of her main concerns with the crosswalk is nighttime visibility.
Holland said she would like to know when the survey on traffic and pedestrian volume was undertaken by City staff, as the crosswalk is very busy before and after school lets out, and at typical rush hour times in the morning and evening as commuters cross the street to access transit, but is “dead” during the day.
Philip Bellefontaine, Transportation Planning Manager for the City of Surrey, said that the review of the intersection was undertaken over the course of a “couple of days” last week.
City staff spent seven-hour periods at the intersection, measuring a number of data points including vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and reviewed the geometry of the roads, sight lines, sidewalks and speed limits.
Those are just some of the examples that are measured during a review, based on nationally accepted guidelines set out by the Transportation Association of Canada.
Data was collected during morning, midday and evening periods.
In an interview with the Cloverdale Reporter on Thursday, Bellefontaine explained that before the original installation, it was determined that the zebra crosswalk treatment was the most appropriate for that intersection. The recent review of the intersection has confirmed that, he said.
Bellefontaine said they recorded just under 6,000 vehicles passing by in one day, which they then enter into a formula to determine that 13,000 vehicles pass through the intersection every day. According to the national criteria, traffic volume would need to be approximately 15,000 vehicles a day before a different kind of pedestrian crossing would be considered.
Although sight lines weren’t identified as an issue, the review recommended the removal of three parking stalls in an “overabundance of caution,” he said.
Bellefontaine noted that pedestrian safety it is not solely the responsibility of the City of Surrey’s engineering department. “It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “The City of Surrey has a responsibility and users of our roads have a responsibility.”
The City of Surrey is partnering with Surrey RCMP and ICBC for a “See Be Scene” awareness campaign. As pedestrians are at greater risk during rainy weather and in the fall and winter when daylight hours decrease, Surrey RCMP is reminding pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street, to dress in bright or reflective clothing and to be vigilant. (For more safety tips, visit surrey.rcmp-grc.ca.)
Bellefontaine said that as the Clayton neighbourhood has seen much change over the past few years, the City of Surrey will be keeping an eye on the community as requirements are likely to change with an increase of traffic and pedestrians.
In the meantime, Holland plans to look into the RCMP’s Speed Watch program, which the City of Surrey listed as a suggestion in their email. The educational program, administered by the Cloverdale/Port Kells community police station, uses trained volunteers and radar guns to display vehicle speeds on large signboards, encouraging speeders to slow down.
Holland said she will continue to “raise awareness,” and to ask her neighbours to step forward and support her petition for sidewalk improvements.
—with files from Amy Reid