City of Surrey is neglecting safe crosswalks

City of Surrey is neglecting safe crosswalks

2 children injured after family struck at Surrey crosswalk

CTV Vancouver; Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 7:58AM PST ; Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2016 7:33PM PST

Police are reminding both drivers and pedestrians to pay more attention on the road after two young children and their mother were hit by a car as they crossed a street in Surrey.

A four-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother were crossing the road with their mom and dad around 6 p.m. Tuesday at 76th Avenue at 147A Street when three of them were struck.

The little girl suffered critical injuries and is in serious condition, and her brother was also seriously hurt. The mother suffered minor injuries.


I’ve been hearing of pedestrian crossing-related accidents in Surrey for years: Another day, another major crosswalk accident. And this time, it was an entire family – a mother and 2 children – struck while trying to cross the road, at a recently-built crosswalk in the east part of Newton.

I’m a busy person day-to-day – often, these issues show up on my news feed and then go away. The issue was just as said, there’s nothing else to report and it’s practically over. But, there was something about this particular issue that I couldn’t get out of my mind. CTV news did a very good report that showcased the incident crosswalk, and pointed out what issues have been had with it in the community. For most people, it’s an issue of speed. It’s an issue of traffic being unable to stop.

They don’t stop. They go more than 50… it’s all the time… nobody cares.
– Woman in red jacket on CTV report

How many times I come down this crosswalk to see people on the sides waiting to cross — nobody stops. Everyone’s in too much of a hurry.
– Scott Ogden, nearby resident

Watch as three vehicles blow right through, with a man trying to cross. Residents say this is common.
– CTV reporter

But the City’s Transportation Manager, Jaime Boan, can’t seem to have what these local residents are saying. He’s dismissed practically all of it, citing that:

Only two vehicle collisions there in the past five years — neither of them involving pedestrians.
– Jaime Boan, City of Surrey Transportation Manager 

and that the crosswalk “doesn’t fit the criteria for a lit crosswalk”.

Questionable criteria

Firstly, I don’t know how valid it is to cite that this crossing had been statistically safe for the past 5 years when there was also no crosswalk, which would understandably mean there are more crossings today as a crosswalk is now actually built for regular use. And secondly, I have found the criteria the City uses to decide on crosswalks to be questionable and far too conservative.

Picture of the 128 Street crash from 2013. Taken by CBC News

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you may recall that just over 2 years ago, I took an issue with an accident that happened right by my University (in the post: “Political Incompetence Kills”). The City of Surrey flopped on building a badly-needed crosswalk, and subsequently a teenage girl was struck and killed by a motorcyclist.

Some of the people commenting on the news reports (and some of the news reports themselves) attributed this incident to jaywalking, but I later discovered that wasn’t the case. The fine lines between what is considered a legal crossing and what is considered “jaywalking” are set by each municipalities’ bylaws. In Surrey, you are legally crossing the street if a proper crosswalk is more than 1 block away, meaning Amarpreet Sivia (the victim) crossed the street legally when she was fatally involved in the motorcycle incident.

Since that incident has occurred, the City of Surrey has responded to media concerns by expediting the construction of a traffic signal. That traffic signal had been requested 3 years prior by the nearby school, but initially rejected because – like in this incident – a crosswalk had been deemed unnecessary. In order to prove the opposite, a teenage girl died. This is something we need to prevent in future incidents by investing in safer, properly-designed crosswalks now, not later. We can’t afford to wait.

Behind the Mayor’s boasting that Surrey has the lowest taxes in the region is the fact that Surrey dedicates just $4.95 million a year to pedestrian/cycling infrastructure projects – less than half the dedication put forward by Vancouver, despite that Surrey is bigger than Vancouver in size and will soon eclipse it too in population.
– From my original post in September 2013: “Political Incompetence Kills”

If this had been done previously, it would have saved a girls life. Instead the traffic signal was brought to life by the urgency of her example, sitting no less than a block away from my classes at Kwantlen, used by students daily unbeknownst to the fact that it was expedited due to a girl’s death.

Stooping even lower

This time, however, I think the City stooped even lower than it did back in 2013. Going back to what was said by City Transportation Manager Jaime Boan…

Only two vehicle collisions there in the past five years — neither of them involving pedestrians.
– Jaime Boan, City of Surrey Transportation Manager 

What a clever excuse to let go of a legitimate issue that’s caused serious injury to an entire family. Right now, A four-year-old girl is clinging to life, while her brother, 6, is in serious condition. That alone should be grounds for a serious investigation of the safety of this crosswalk. I actually find it ironic that a City Engineer (and the transportation manager no less), who was asked to comment on this crosswalk, managed to miss this particular shortfall:

Crosswalk 1
From the CTV video showing a person attempting to cross at this specific crosswalk.

Because of the parked vehicle in the foreground, it is impossible to see that a pedestrian wishes to cross. It is also practically impossible to see the crosswalk sign. It’s the most basic rule established between drivers and pedestrians – that eye-contact is made before the crossing is attempted – but there is practically zero line-of-sight. Which also means that there is no room for a vehicle to slow-down to prevent an accident. Add that to the total lack of traffic calming on this street, and it’s no wonder that cars are blowing through this intersection one after the other – it’s practically impossible to tell whether anyone is crossing, much less that there even is a crosswalk – especially at night, when the incident occurred.

After checking with the City’s by-laws, which specify that one must not park within 15 metres of a crosswalk approach, the van in the video may have been parked there illegally. However, if the van belongs to the adjacent residence, then the City should have notified the owner that it would no longer be possible to park the van there and that it should be moved. Even then, the City should also have properly installed “no parking” or “no stopping” signs, which were not in place at the time of this incident and are not visible in the news video.

Regardless of these things, no attempt was made to create an intersection that is safer for crossing, as the intersection was not modified to bring the curb to the edge of the travel lane, which would also reduce crossing distances and make for an overall much safer crossing.

What needs to be done

Some of the people interviewed by the news suggested that this crosswalk needs to have a light – something that the City will probably debate forever with its “traffic statistics”, but it’s clear that regardless of whether or not a light is needed, the crosswalk that was built was poorly engineered. Marking a crosswalk defines a place for people to cross, but if the safety improvement aspect is to be fully realized, that crosswalk must be paired with changes to the roadway or intersection.

What should’ve been built at this crosswalk (and at any other unmarked intersections that may demand crossings) would resemble another crosswalk only two blocks to the west, where the roadway is narrowed so as to slow down vehicles, reduce crossing distances, and ensure eye contact can be made between pedestrians and vehicles:

Significantly better crosswalk

I find it ironic how this significantly better-designed crosswalk exists nearby, and yet the City of Surrey didn’t take it into account when it built the crosswalk ramps at the existing curb edges, did nothing about the parked vehicles, and completely ignored the line-of-sight.

You owe the people of Surrey an apology, Mr. Boan.

Actually, a lot of people in the City of Surrey might owe apologies. The reason I’m picking on Jaime Boan in particular is because of the dismissive explanation he provided in news interviews – which is also indicative of just how unwilling the City of Surrey is to fix its serious issues with (un)safe crosswalks.

Now, I’m not an engineer. My dad is, but I’m not – I’m just a plain old university student. I haven’t finished my degree in engineering… no less, I’m not even studying engineering. So I have practically no expertise on this matter at all. But it alarms me that a professional engineer (and no less, the manager of transportation in this City), supposedly far more trained than me on this issue, couldn’t nail down the simple, visible reasons why this crosswalk is unsafe. And it alarms me even more that he is now implying that it is still okay to use this crosswalk and that the City is planning to do nothing about it.

Perhaps it’s tempting to think that the stats will say everything, and perhaps it is true that this is the first time an accident has ever developed here at this location. But if there’s any Surrey crosswalk stat that needs to be told, it’s the fact that Surrey has the unfortunate distinction of being home to the highest ratio of pedestrian-related motor vehicle fatalities in the entire province. (according to: The Surrey Leader)

When an entire family is in the hospital because of something that is clearly a result of your (department’s) shortcoming, telling people dismissively that the city won’t consider changes at the problem intersection is absolutely unacceptable. Mr. Boan, you owe the people of Surrey an apology.

And in addition, this neighbourhood is owed a crosswalk redesign. Now.

I would encourage the City of Surrey to expedite efforts to redo this crosswalk right away, and perhaps redo the entire street so that vehicles are slowed down. The city should also expedite other needed safe crossings throughout the city.

Pattullo Problems – 2: Front Street

ALSO SEE: Pattullo Problems – 1: Advocating for Six Lanes

Railway crossing - Front Street, New Westminster
Railway crossing – Front Street, New Westminster

Last year I was working in a building in New Westminster with a window that overlooked the railway crossing at Front Street. There, I witnessed the passing of trains and truck traffic on a daily basis. I still remember wanting to close the window every time I opened it to enjoy the fresh air, because the air smelled like diesel. It just wasn’t something I wanted to breathe, and I kept that window closed as much as I can for the duration of my stay. According to Councillor Bill Harper, Front Street is one of the “most toxic” areas in the Lower Mainland in terms of air quality.

Trucks that use Front Street, as they do regularly with Columbia Street not being suitable for large amounts of trucks, have to contend with these trains, which slowly continue onto the Fraser River Bridge into Surrey. As well, New Westminster residents have to contend with the train whistles, and the air pollution resulting from the stop and go movement. On a transportation basis, it’s not efficient and not predictable to use front street.

This is where a new six-lane Pattullo bridge replacement – which I discussed in a previous blog article and through letters now published in three Burnaby and New Westminster newspapers – can most handily come in.

This summary map shows the highway projects that were proposed with the Gateway Program (along with other recent major road projects in the region). The previously proposed NFPR is highlighted in purple.
This summary map shows the highway projects that were proposed with the Gateway Program (along with other recent major road projects in the region). The previously proposed NFPR is highlighted in purple.

The Front Street corridor was part of a previous highway proposal called the North Fraser Perimeter Road (NFPR), which was part of the regional Gateway Program. However, both New Westminster and TransLink have placed this project on the backburner, perhaps indefinitely. Plans for a new Pattullo Bridge no longer show a connection with Front Street, and the United Boulevard Extension is off the table.

Instead, the City of New Westminster has discussed the potential to revitalize Front Street into a “neighbourhood street” lined with business and mixed-use development, deconstructing it as the current through route for many trucks travelling from the southwest to the northeast.

The revitalized Front Street concept included a car, bike and pedestrian overpass at Sixth Street, connecting with the new Waterfront Park, to eliminate the railway crossing at Eight Street and – along with the elimination of the Front Street crossing and the closure of Front Street as a through route – result in the elimination of all railway crossings in New Westminster, and associated train whistle habits.

Concept: Revitalized Front Street with Sixth Street rail overpass
Concept: Revitalized Front Street with Sixth Street rail overpass

As a proponent of sustainable urban development and a nearby resident just 10 minutes away by SkyTrain in Burnaby, a revitalized Front Street is something I really look forward to. It has the potential to bring increased business, quality of life and tourism to New Westminster, benefitting everyone in the big picture.

Already, new investments into the community like the Waterfront Park have greatly improved the quality of life in New Westminster, and have given people across the region more reasons to come into New Westminster. More than ever, New Westminster is an accessible, vibrant regional centre – and I think that planners and decision makers should be building on that momentum that started with first steps like Plaza 88 at New Westminster Station and the under construction civic centre across the street.

However, the construction of a six-lane Pattullo Bridge with extra capacity to redirect traffic is the only way the City of New Westminster can realistically follow through with this priority.

While the City has discussed redirecting trucks onto alternate parallel corridors like 10th and Royal Avenues, neither are very suitable for trucks. The former is a two-lane, low-capacity corridor for much of its length not suitable for schedule-oriented goods movement. The latter puts trucks through a climb on a very steep hill, which apart from being an issue for truckers themselves, creates noise and pollution for New Westminster residents.

The issues with 10th and Royal were being discussed in detail in New Westminster’s official downtown community plan. However, these discussions seem to have been ignored in more recent viewpoint establishments.

It remains a fact that the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) with an expanded Pattullo Bridge can fulfill a role that Front Street currently dominates: getting trucks and goods from the South-of-Fraser ports in Delta to Northeast sector ports and industrial centres. A six-lane Pattullo Bridge is the only way to facilitate a direct connection between the SFPR and Columbia Street and totally replace Front Street as well as the heavily congested Queensborough Bridge in this segment with a reliable alternative.

Featured image: The SkyBridge, with the New Westminster Waterfront in the background. From the "Inn at the Quay" website - no copyright specified
Featured image: The SkyBridge, with the New Westminster Waterfront in the background. I think we could we be seeing this view differently with a six-lane Pattullo Bridge in place. From the “Inn at the Quay” website – no copyright specified

I think the City of New Westminster could be taking this into account in having a position on a Pattullo Bridge replacement. Being open to six lanes, the possibilities with Front Street would be endless.

NEXT UP: Pattullo Problems – 3: Queensborough Matters

NEW: Read my letter supporting a six-lane Pattullo Bridge as it appeared on the Royal City Record

Pattullo Bridge needs six lanes – Royal City Record

Dear Editor:

New Westminster’s Jim Lowrie told us that a six-lane Pattullo would cost about twice as much as a four-lane bridge, but the released study reports an entirely different number. Given the actual premium for two extra lanes stands at a more reasonable $200 to $300 million, I am in favour of a six-lane bridge.

Before anyone complains, I think it’s important to establish first what exactly the extra lanes will be for, where will they go, and what are the benefits.

I have heard some complaints about how McBride would become a “six-lane expressway” and overload New Westminster and Burnaby streets with traffic. But TransLink’s concepts from last year’s consultations show that the third lane is intended to split off towards Columbia Street north of the bridge – a road leading away from New Westminster….

[READ MORE – Royal City Record]

Pattullo Problems – 1: Advocating for Six Lanes

Introduction

This is the first in a series of several blog articles I’m going to be publishing on why I think a Six-lane Pattullo bridge (as opposed to a four-lane Pattullo bridge or other options) does make sense and should be built. The articles will publish every week and discuss my viewpoint in-depth.

Six-lane Pattullo makes sense

Re: New West makes Pattullo pitch in Burnaby (NewsLeader, March 14)

I am in favour of a six-lane Pattullo bridge.

Before anyone complains, I think it’s important to establish first what exactly the extra lanes will be for, where will they go, and what are the benefits.

[READ MORE – Burnaby NewsLeader]

^ This is the headliner for a recent Letter to the Editor I submitted to the Burnaby News Leader (and to other local newspapers, pending publishing) with my viewpoint on the Pattullo Bridge. In it, one of the things I’m trying to do is get readers to start asking and finding answers to the question:

Why do we need a new Pattullo Bridge? And how could it be useful to us?

I think the first and foremost reason and benefit is the most obvious and well known: the current bridge is built to old standards with narrow lanes and poor seismic resistance, and could potentially be a major liability for the regional transportation authority. It is past its lifespan and needs to be removed or replaced. Since the bridge is an established goods movement corridor for close to 70,000 vehicles daily, the consensus has been that it needs to be replaced – but some decision-makers, including a few in my current city of residence, are suggesting that the bridge should be torn down with no replacement.

I think the most important things we need to consider – the aforementioned questions of why and how, and the establishment of the actual issues – have been missing from the many viewpoints I have read over what needs to be done for the Pattullo Bridge, from both locals with an opinion and officials with decision-making authorities.

What makes 6 lanes more special than 4

Featured image: Construction crews build the six-lane Golden Ears Bridge, completed in 2009 linking Langley and Maple Ridge
Featured image: Construction crews build the six-lane Golden Ears Bridge, completed in 2009 linking Langley and Maple Ridge

As early as two years back I had been commenting on opinions discouraging the build-out of the Pattullo as a six-lane bridge, finding that the writers are not exactly seeing the big picture. When I lived in Surrey two years ago, I sent a letter to the New West News Leader pushing very much the same viewpoint I am trying to push now. I contended a person with the thinking that the lineups approaching the bridge will increase with the expansion of the lanes and the removal of merge points:

Pattullo Bridge problem is merging, not lane count

posted Jun 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM

There is an unusual mentality among many New Westminster residents complaining about a six-lane Pattullo Bridge expansion. It particularly caught my attention last week when Mr. Vladimir Krasnogor sent in a letter to this paper.

I’d like to point out one ridiculous claim: “With a new six-lane bridge, the traffic jams will extend to five to six blocks, but the actual number of cars going over the bridge to Surrey will not increase by much.”

If there will be no more vehicles crossing the new bridge than the existing one but the bridge will have more capacity and through lanes that prevent merging movements, wouldn’t lineups through New Westminster get shorter? His logic defies itself.

[READ MORE – New West Leader]

While the City of Surrey has contended that a six-lane Pattullo Bridge is necessary, it has done so in a way that many New Westminster residents and officials have found to be quite ignorant – which has allowed this wave of incomplete, not-so-well-thought-out opinions to dominate the public scene. While I don’t disagree in that the city of Surrey has not exactly been very mindful of New Westminster’s community integrity, I do agree with the need for a new six-lane connection over the Fraser River to replace the Pattullo Bridge.

It’s just the fact that constructing a six-lane Pattullo is the most practical solution for so many problems – more than New Westminster residents have been thinking of. In one go, we could solve all of these problems with widespread support for a six-lane Pattullo Bridge:

  • Seismic and road-standard safety issues on the existing Pattullo Bridge
  • Safety issues on the existing Queensborough Bridge – which, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, also has very narrow lanes
  • Congestion and pollution on New Westminster’s Front Street, Columbia Street and Royal Avenue(s) through SFPR connections
  • Major flaws in New Westminster’s plan to revitalize Front Street
  • Growing congestion levels on the Queensborough Bridge, hampering commutes on some of the region’s fastest growing regional bus routes and hampering growth, prosperity and productivity in Queensborough
  • Growing congestion levels on approaching roads such as 20th Street and 6th Avenue, which hamper intra-community movement in New Westminster
  • Growing congestion levels on the Alex Fraser Bridge, affecting goods movement from port to port
  • Funding (because a six-lane Pattullo Bridge expansion decongests the Queensborough and Alex Fraser Bridges, which are important ports and goods movement corridors for the region and for the country, there is a significantly improved case for provincial and federal funding for the Pattullo replacement).

You’re a pro-transit advocate. Why do you even support more lanes!?

There are actually a number of transit-related problems that a Pattullo replacement with six lanes could help solve – in particular, I’m talking about transit routes downriver crossing the Alex Fraser and Queensborough Bridges. In the following weeks, I will be elaborating and writing on the above reasons and many others in a new topic-centric blog series (akin to my popular “No Credit for TransLink” series) titled “Pattullo Problems“, which will discuss the many problems brought up by the current Pattullo setup and potentially solved by a new one.

The next article will discuss how a 6-lane Pattullo Bridge can tie in with New Westminster’s Front Street revitalization plan.

UPDATE: This article has been published as Pattullo Problems – 2: Front Street

Self-taken: the SkyBridge (SkyTrain rapid transit bridge), with the Pattullo Bridge in the background.
Self-taken: the SkyBridge (SkyTrain rapid transit bridge), with the Pattullo Bridge in the background.

NEWSLETTER: Give the 96 B-Line a chance

I wrote quickly in response to a couple of letters in last Tuesday’s Surrey Leader complaining about the new 96 B-Line in Surrey. The Surrey Leader has delivered, and you can read my letter response which appeared in Thursday’s issue. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet….

This letter is for frustrated 320 and 321 bus riders.

I ride transit every day and like you, I have seen the situation on the 96 B-Line, 320 and 321; adaptation has been slow, 320s and 321s are often sardine-can full and the 96 is not always sardine-can full.

Before you decide to be dismissive about the 96, I would like to suggest that you look at what it is providing for other riders, and to potentially you.

The 96 B-Line may be the single biggest improvement TransLink has ever granted to a corridor in history: it is the only B-Line route ever introduced that is not replacing previous express buses. The 99, 98 and 97 all replaced express buses that were well utilized.

If you’re riding the 320 and 321 and not having a great experience, I encourage you to take note of the 96 and see how it fits with your commute – try it first. One letter writer who dislikes the 96 could walk two blocks in either direction to a stop served by it…..

[READ MORE – SURREY LEADER]

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: TransLink didn’t propose .5% sales tax

I almost let this one slip under my nose! It looks like the Langley Times published one of my letter submissions from last month.

One of the things I noticed in the letter I responded to is how misinformed some TransLink critics can be on who did what. I could explain more, but the best explanation would probably be to read my letter:

Editor: I think that Gordon Price is right — whoever set this widespread anti-TransLink agenda has really damaged the state of transit debate in this region.

Particularly, the recent letter in The Times (“TransLink is never satisfied,” Sept. 12) is like many I’ve read before, in that it’s painting a completely incorrect picture of TransLink. If you’ve heard about the .5 per cent sales tax proposal recently, it was brought up by two well-known South of Fraser transit advocates — not by TransLink. TransLink’s board has never requested a sales tax of such calibre for transit.

The .5 per cent sales tax proposal was first brought up earlier this year by a group of people we have previously elected to lead us: our mayors. The Regional Mayors’ Council has been very vocal in trying to ensure that transit investment in this region can move forward.

Why is that? Because they know that investing in transit is the most efficient way of providing needed new transportation options for a growing population….

[READ MORE – Langley Times]

LETTER TO MAYOR/COUNCIL: Improve safety around Surrey roads and schools

19th Sept: A flower is tied to a tree in front of the accident location in rememberance of the victim
19th Sept: A flower is tied to a tree in front of the accident location in rememberance of the victim killed in yesterday’s motorcycle accident

In light of the popularity of my recent discussion on how some accidents in Surrey seem to correlate around the condition and safety of the surrounding facilities, I have decided to further my voice in this issue and sent this letter below to Mayor Dianne Watts and to every member of Surrey City Council.

SEE ALSO: Political Incompetence Kills

SEE ALSO: LETTER: For the friends and family of Amarpreet Sivia, Surrey crash victim

—————————————————————————

To Mayor Watts, to Council and to all other officials at the City of Surrey,
In light of not only a recent incident affecting three Princess Margaret Secondary School students, but also a previous hit-and-run incident in June that hospitalized a 5-year-old near Fleetwood that I have not had a chance to speak about, I urge the City of Surrey to construct a crosswalk on 128th Street south of 72nd Avenue now, and modify its policies so that proper crosswalk facilities are constructed and in place at appropriate locations near all schools in the city by the end of Spring Break in 2014.
Hundreds of visitors have taken to the discussion post I have posted on my blog (see: featured on http://darylvsworld.wordpress.com/) regarding how accidents in Surrey seem to correlate to the condition of the facilities around them. I have received praise for writing this article both privately and publicly on various websites, which has made me wish to further my action on this issue.
I would like to say that I am extremely disappointed by the fact that most requests for safety infrastructure in this city –  including traffic calming devices and crosswalks – are put through studies and rigorous standards whose requirement and criteria are very questionable, and take an extremely long time to process. A clear justification for the immediate construction of a marked crosswalk should have already been established by the demand alone, and the adjustment that has to be made for school areas to accomodate for the different mindset of students and children.
As a resident of the Guildford area and an alumni of Johnston Heights Secondary school, I think it is extremely questionable why Johnston Heights was able to get two signalized crosswalks in 2009, but Princess Margaret, after requests for the same thing in 2010, has received nothing. 100th Ave is much like 128th St; it carries between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles daily, is a four-lane arterial road, and is crossed near-daily by students who need to cross for various purposes, including getting to and from school during morning, lunch and after-school periods.
I could conspire that there was a signfiicant change in city policies past 2009 that has resulted in a lowering of investment in safety infrastructure, although I also know that mentioning that would not get me anywhere in promoting and raising awareness of this issue.
I have heard from multiple city residents from neighbourhoods all over Surrey, including South Newton and (as recently as last night) Fraser Heights who have had to wait for many years (3-4) for crosswalks to be installed.
I understand now that a crosswalk in this area was planned to be put in place in the year 2014. This is one year too late, and completely unacceptable. The construction of proper crosswalk and safety facilities near all Surrey schools needs to be fast-tracked at whatever cost.
A crosswalk can be as simple as marking the roadway and installing a few signs – an inexpensive, upgradeable first-step solution that can create a massive safety benefit in the right location.
It is completely unacceptable that lives have to be lost because of extrenuously conservative fiscal policies and general political incompetence in this city.
I hope that my letter encourages you to take action on behalf of all students in the City of Surrey who deserve improved safety around school facilities and elsewhere.
Sincerely,
Daryl Dela Cruz

Political Incompetence Kills

mi-bc-130607-surrey-hit-and-run

Surrey boy hospitalized in hit and run

Police searching for driver of silver four-door Mercedes with tinted windows and large, stock rims

CBC News Posted: Jun 07, 2013 4:06 PM PT RCMP are searching for the driver of a silver-coloured Mercedes who struck a young boy and drove away in the Surrey neighbourhood of Fleetwood Friday afternoon.

Five-year-old Arshdeep Singh Sidhu is recovering in hospital after being struck by the car, his aunt told CBC News.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet said the hit and run happened in the 16100 block of 92nd Avenue at around 3 p.m. PT. (More on CBC news)

SEE ALSO: LETTER TO MAYOR/COUNCIL: Improve safety around Surrey roads and schools

SEE ALSO: LETTER: For the friends and family of Amarpreet Sivia, Surrey crash victim

It has only been a few months since I took notice of an incident this past summer in Fleetwood that sent a 5-year-old boy to the hospital. The incident gained particularly big attention from the media as it was a hit-and-run. I was just reading the news that day and it struck me that the accident occured in a place that is within easy biking distance of my home. So, the next day, I decided to head out on my bike and check out what the area looks like.

This is what I found:

First of all, let me start off by pointing out what is wrong in these pictures:

  1. One side of the road does not have a sidewalk, which is violating city policies that mandate that collector roads have sidewalks on both sides of the street.
  2. Despite a downhill approach, there is absolutely no measure on the road for slowing vehicles down – something that is especially heinous, given that the downhill direction is the side without a sidewalk.
  3. Despite that the road crosses commute paths to a local school, and borders its grass sports field, there are no markings or signs to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings.

Although nearby signage points out that children may be playing in the area and advises drivers to slow to 30km/h, there is absolutely nothing ensuring that drivers will be actually at that speed, and so this stretch of 92nd Avenue is a recipe for disaster. I wrote a letter to the editor denouncing that city policies may have contributed to causing this accident, citing the low investment in pedestrian and cycling facilities and the stringent process for applying for traffic calming, and also forwarded this letter to the nearby school’s principal and parent advisory council. It was never published on the newspaper.

—————————————————————————

Teenage girls were students at nearby Princess Margaret Secondary School

CBC News Posted: Sep 18, 2013 2:09 PM PT

A teenage girl is dead and two others have been seriously injured, along with the rider of a motorcycle, following a traffic accident just before noon today in Surrey, B.C. RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet said the motorcyclist was travelling southbound on 128 Street near 68 Avenue at 11:30 a.m. PT when he struck the three teenage girls as they were crossing the street. (More on CBC news)

Yesterday, I heard the news that a teenage girl from Princess Margaret Secondary was killed in an accident not one block away from my current school (Kwantlen Polytechnic University). I know many friends personally, who go or went to Princess Margaret Secondary, and who know the girl that was killed in a recent motorcycle accident during the lunch hour. It caught my attention when an R.I.P. post appeared on my Facebook news feed. So, I decided to look into the incident and the area where this accident occured. This is what I found:

  1. 128th Street is a four-lane arterial road signed at 60km/h. Despite the nearby presence of both a post-secondary and a secondary institution, there is absolutely no signage to notify drivers that they should expect students.
  2. There are no crosswalks on the entire four-lane stretch of road.
  3. There are no crosswalks fronting the local business cluster, despite the school, significant residential and transit stop on the other side.
  4. There is nothing else on the road stretch that compromises the right-of-way and could possibly slow vehicles down. It is a straight stretch of completely unobstructed road, signed at 60km/h, and an enticing environment for over-speeding.

128th Ave carries 13,000 vehicles daily, which does not even necessarily warrant a four-lane road to begin with. Yet whoever at the City of Surrey decided to pursue an expansion of this road anyway. And so, it is possible to go 60km/h or over on 128th Ave very easily, as there are no obstructions to face. On the entire four-block stretch of road, there are no crosswalks.

The girl who was killed, one among three girls who were crossing (the two other girls were injured), was crossing just north of 69A Avenue. Her destination was a pizza restaurant on the other side of the road way at a business complex. The Vancouver Sun interviewed several people from the local area who conjured these responses:

Local residents say the spot where the teens were hit is a particularly dangerous section of road, where Princess Margaret students often jaywalk across four lanes in the middle of a very long block to get cheap slices of pizza or a samosa during lunch. “There’s always a big problem with (students) crossing,” said Cherenjit Dhillon, who owns a retail building near the crash site. “The kids don’t have enough time to go to the traffic lights and cross.” Read more: Vancouver Sun

Where the girl was crossing the street, it is absolutely legal and okay to cross*, and according to a student from Princess Margaret Secondary School I was talking to, students do it often.

While even a basic crosswalk with just markings and signs could have been doable for a very small cost, there are no plans for a crosswalk outlined in the City’s 10 year servicing plan.

* For clarification, while jaywalking is discouraged, it is not actually illegal in British Columbia (see: Section 179 MVA) to do so. Municipal authorities do, however, have the power to set some of their own by-laws regarding motor vehicles and pedestrians (see: Section 124 MVA); in the City of Surrey, jaywalking is illegal, but crossing at an unmarked location is only considered jaywalking if the crossing is done within one block of a signalized intersection or marked crossing (see: Bylaw No. 13007).

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Why students will cross

The alternative to reaching this pizza store by crossing 128th Street at an unmarked location is a 6-7 minute each way detour (at a reasonable 100 metres per second, and accounting for signal waiting time) to 72nd Avenue to cross at the signal. The lunch break time at Princess Margaret Secondary is only 45 minutes (including the time between the warning bell and absolute class time), which means that students have reasons to be in a hurry. A clear justification for this crosswalk should have already been established by the demand alone, in addition to the fact that students will require crossing facilities on a more on-demand basis.

Often times, kids can’t make the BEST decisions possible. That’s why most developed societies have set different laws for anyone who is under 18. The government recognizes a child’s inferior ability to reason and make rational decisions, so they make laws that account for that. It’s all risk compensation at the end of the day. Unfortunately, this mindset does not necessarily extend to infrastructure policies, and that is something that has the potential of being a huge problem.

In my times as a high school student at Johnston Heights Secondary School, I witnessed jaywalking all the time. It couldn’t be stopped. Students were in a hurry. Lunch break at my school was 50 minutes long, slightly longer than at Princess Margaret. Students would pass through a nearby townhouse complex from the school, emerging at 100th Avenue and 153rd Street. Here, many students crossed to reach a major T&T Supermarket and food court and other local businesses. The alternate and staff-mandated route was to have students cross at 152nd Street and 100th Ave, which a lengthy detour for students heading to some of the establishments, such as T&T.

The signalized crosswalk at 100th Ave and 153rd St, installed in 2009.
The signalized crosswalk at 100th Ave and 153rd St, installed in 2009.

In spite of staff notifications telling students not to cross there, crossing at 153rd Street was nevertheless a popular shortcut for accessing local businesses during lunch time and homes both before and after school – so popular that during my 9th grade, the demand alone was noticed and resulted in the installation of a full, signalized crosswalk. Another crosswalk was installed on 152nd Street at 99th Ave. This project was successful, and the crosswalk is now well used at all times of day. My younger sister, who goes to the school now and is entering the 8th grade, is benefiting from this crosswalk, as it is the closest way to school from home.

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How the City responded

The CBC article reports that the nearby secondary school (Princess Margaret) where these students attended requested a crosswalk in this area three years ago, and were told “no” by the city. At a community association meeting in Fraser Heights today, I noticed how much emphasis was being put on feedback having been received from the city that stated that “there is no money in this year’s budget” to solve a safety problem on a section of 156th Street in Fraser Heights. At 128th Street, the city rejected the crosswalk on the basis that according to a study, a crosswalk was not appropriate. But, is it really that a crosswalk is not necessary, or that the city spends far too conservatively for a crosswalk to be acceptable in their eyes without meeting a minimum standard, except in certain circumstances?

That stretch of 128th Street, like the stretch of 100th Avenue in my community that received a crosswalk, services between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles daily. Like 100th Ave, there is a clear demand for constant crossing between the local businesses and residents/other patrons. Unlike 100th Ave, there is also a bus stop nearby, where riders most certainly cross the street at least once a day for that purpose.

The same 10-year report I linked earlier listing future city projects also reveals that there’s not a lot of money going around in this city to invest in basic road safety. Behind the Mayor’s boasting that Surrey has the lowest taxes in the region is the fact that Surrey dedicates just $4.95 million a year to pedestrian/cycling infrastructure projects – less than half the dedication put forward by Vancouver, despite that Surrey is bigger than Vancouver in size and will soon eclipse it too in population. If there was more money available to be dedicated to improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, there would most certainly be less or lower standards. Although, that’s debatable, since the current policy of not being wasteful and requiring rigorous standards may hold through higher investment.

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Politicial incompetence kills

I have been saying for a long time that our Mayor and Council need to realize that there can be serious consequences to Surrey’s minimal taxes and spending policies, which do not offer much leeway for proactive spending. Their failure to realize this is part of why we are hearing of this unfortunate reality that a girl is dead.

I watched a recent and excellent documentary called Speed Kills your Pocketbook (you should all watch this) that explores how and why speed can be better fine-tuned to improve safety. Still, while speed can kill your pocketbook, it can still kill lives. A crash with a pedestrian is more deadly if the driver is going faster, an indisputable fact that is reported in many studies.

Political incompetence can be very much the same way. Political incompetence, in the sense of a politician being both a wasteful and extravagant spender, kills your pocketbook. Political incompetence in the sense of being too ignorant and dismissive can kill lives.

However, political incompetence is also unlike speed. While the issue of speed killing pocketbooks and lives can both be solved, in the case of political incompetence, you can only solve one or the other. Saving lives might come at the expense of killing pocketbooks (okay, perhaps killing would be a bit extreme, but it could be painful). It’s a fine line – and a very significant one – that ultimately the residents of this city are going to have to think about.

A girl is dead.

“Unnecessary” should not be an excuse. Families of Surrey, I hope this makes you think about whether this could be your child in a future incident.

Double responses to Fraser Heights NIMBY/anti-transit letter

A transit bus waits during a "layover" at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. Photo credit: CC-BY-NC-SA Flickr: Dennis Tsang
A transit bus waits during a “layover” at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. Photo credit: CC-BY-NC-SA Flickr: Dennis Tsang

In what can be considered a major victory for Fraser Heights transit riders, there have been two responses to a letter to the editor/rotten tomatoes submission from a Fraser Heights resident, who dislikes the noise of full-size buses going through the neighbourhood.

One of the two was mine and was published today in the Surrey Leader…. (8/28 – The Now has also published a varied version I wrote [CLICK HERE])

Full-size buses welcome in Fraser Heights – Surrey Leader

Re: “‘Cast-off’ buses geared for Surrey riders,” Letters, The Leader, Aug. 15.

This letter is very insulting to the many Fraser Heights residents who are repaying the recent bus size increases with their patronage.

As a frequent rider of the 337 Fraser Heights (I get on/off at 156 Street), I can say from experience that the full-size buses on the 337 are indeed necessary. Peak-hour trips see standing-room only loads, and off-peak hour trips see more than the 24 people that can be accommodated by a community bus.

TransLink’s response has been justified. The recent bus performance report revealed that the 337 has the fastest-growing ridership of any bus route in Surrey, and the full-size buses are preventing pass-ups and keeping the 337 reliable for the demand……

See more at: The Leader website

…and the other was from another letter-writer who would seem to live further into Fraser Heights than I do; this was published on The Now Newspaper last week (but should also be on the same edition of The Leader – [CLICK HERE]).

Surrey bus service suffers from bottlenecks – Surrey Now

The Editor, Re: “A bus full of rotten tomatoes to TransLink for its decision to run intrusive, noisy large buses through Fraser Heights’ small streets, 16 hours per day. Most of these buses carry less than the capacity of our former small ‘community buses.’ This is a waste of money and an assault on our senses!” the Now Roses and Rotten Tomatoes, Aug. 8, and “TransLink gets credit while lowly subsidize,” the Now letters, July 30.

There have been comments published in the Now newspaper that said most of the buses servicing Fraser Heights were old and empty. Yes, many buses are “old” but then, age is just a number if they are well maintained.

Not knowing where on the Fraser Heights bus route the writer of this comment lives, he/she may not know the majority of people get off and on the buses within the first or last few stops in Fraser Heights, so the buses would have few people until they loop around to pick up those leaving Fraser Heights.

The buses are full with standees in the mornings heading out of Fraser Heights (even during the summer) and packed with standees in the afternoons, heading into Fraser Heights……

See more at: The Now Newspaper website

I think it was particularly interesting that I wasn’t the only one who sent in a response to this letter-writer, and that the other letter was based upon very similar concerns and experiences. It looks like it’s clear what are the priorities of Fraser Heights and area residents (especially transit riders).

Regarding the stats, this is the document you need to look at (on TransLink’s website – CLICK HERE). The 337 placed 3rd in ridership growth between South-of-Fraser bus routes in 2010-2011 with 13.3% growth, and placed 1st in 2011-2012 with 14.1% growth. It now services more than 750,000 boardings annually.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Split from TransLink makes little sense

Looking forward inside a Vancouver transit bus. Photo: CC-BY-NC-ND Flickr: Cyprien
Looking forward inside a Vancouver transit bus. Photo: CC-BY-NC-ND Flickr: Cyprien

The two points I made in the last sentence of this letter are the only two points I make in favour of my position on where the South of Fraser region should stand on transit and TransLink. The reason for just two is because I think that’s all I really need to say about this, really.

If anyone’s wondering about the Toronto fares mention, you can confirm this through my article and infograph: Transit is more affordable in Vancouver (infographic)

There are some things I just can’t grasp when it comes to south-of-Fraser views on transit issues, from the notion from our leaders that SkyTrain expansion will split communities (SkyTrain has built communities), to the idea that the south-of-Fraser region should split from TransLink.

Take the recent column by Frank Bucholtz suggesting splitting from TransLink, for instance. (CLICK HERE to view – “Time to Break from TransLink”)

Frank is fed up by the seemingly “discriminatory” attitude towards transit expansion south of the Fraser.

Yet, in the past several years, the south-of-Fraser area has received the highest proportion of service hours during expansions. There would have been more, were it not for the limits being set by funding issues for everyone in the region.

He is also fed up with three-zone fares ($5.50) to reach Vancouver from Surrey or Langley. But it must be realized that the distance between Surrey and Vancouver is at least 17 kilometers; many trips exceed 30 kms, and TransLink often has to pay for one or two buses and a SkyTrain trip from your flat-rate fare.

Trying to travel the same distance in Metro Toronto between cities would cost between $6.25 and $7.75 each way, every day. It costs just $5.50 here, during peak commuting hours only – and just $2.75 on evenings and weekends.

True, there are some inexcusable nitpicks like the lack of a Surrey stop on the Highway 1 RapidBus.

However, it’s hard to say whose fault that is. Neither the province nor nearby developers were able to build a place for TransLink to safely stop without incurring delays and/or extra costs.

I’m all for better transit south of the Fraser, but a separate south-of-Fraser transit authority is not the answer.

It doesn’t make sense. Attempting to split off would complicate decisions on funding methods, and it would affect transit service during the process.

Daryl Dela Cruz

Surrey

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Interurban is just a piece of history

Interurban car 1225 rests at Marpole Station on the old Steveston Interurban
Interurban car 1225 rests at Marpole Station on the old Steveston Interurban in this old-time picture posted on Vancouver Is Awesome

I sent the blog post I created on the Interurban being “dead” as a newsletter to the Surrey Leader, responding to this column about it by Frank Bucholtz. Looks like it was published today on their website, and is likely going to be on tomorrow’s paper issue.

As I have a feeling that this is going to spark some further controversy regarding my comments and my stance on transit, I’d like to offer some additional comments as to why I have set my foot on this position.

The Fraser Valley interurban right-of-way has long been a target for transit advocates here in the South of Fraser (take note: Rail for the Valley initiative, South Fraser on Trax, other groups and individuals), largely on what seems to be a established bases of:

  1. Having been a previously-used transit service
  2. Being a public-owned right-of-way, therefore:
  3. Being “ready-to-build” for a relatively inexpensive Fraser Valley rail transit service.
A map of the Fraser Valley interurban right of way, and the Trans-Canada Highway.
A map of the Fraser Valley interurban right of way, and the Trans-Canada Highway.

Between these advocates and official transportation planning and funding authorities like TransLink, BC Transit and the Province in general, there has been a lot of argument. Conflicting studies suggesting different capital costs per km have been thrown around here and there and claims of bias have been called by some of these advocates, pitting one study over another and citing differing reasons as to why.

Yet, at the same time, it seems that many of these advocates haven’t answered certain questions important in determining what investments are useful and what are not; in particular, the first question I note in my newsletter: “What is the current demand, and how will it change”. How many people are even travelling between Abbotsford and Chiliwack, and between those two points and Metro Vancouver. It’s reasonable to want a constantly-running alternative to driving, but in a province mired with billions in debt, I would think that the alternative has to be very well justified.

It also doesn’t seem that any of them have bothered to look at other alternatives to providing quality transit to the Fraser Valley from Metro Vancouver. An official proposal by B.C. Transit, albeit it is without funding and without a (detailed) implementation timeline, suggests a 10-minute peak rapid bus service extending from the new Carvolth Exchange in Langley Township to Abbotsford via the Trans-Canada Highway, and a 15-minute peak service to Chiliwack. I like this idea. I think that this is a very responsible and reasonable alternative, because it does provide a quality service, and only costs enough to warrant debate if demand warrants more buses or an upgrade to trains.

What the future of Fraser Valley transit could look like, according to an official proposal.
What the future of Fraser Valley transit could look like, according to an official proposal.

I’m not an anti-history person. On the Interurban cars and service, I believe they are a truly fascinating subject on how our region has grown and how people used to get around. Last week during the Salmon Festival in Steveston, I decided to check out Interurban car #1220 (as the admission was free for the day) and found myself fascinated by the ability to switch the seat backs from forward-facing to rear-facing (driver cabs are on both sides, so the seats can be re-oriented when the train reversed), something not done even on our current SkyTrain system. I must remind myself to soon check out that actual running interurban car – no thanks to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society – in Cloverdale right now, which lets people relive the past transportation experience in addition to just being around it.

While it’s great to see that a part of our history is back to be celebrated for being a part of what has created today, I sent this letter and wrote what I did because I believe it’s important that people know why history is deemed history, and that looking at doing better for the now and for the future isn’t a simple matter of looking at the past and making a suggestion that is vague, somewhat unsupported, and sole among other potentially good alternatives.

Next up on this blog: an examination of why the Interurban has been largely rejected, and an examination of reasonable alternatives that haven’t been suggested by advocates.

Until then, I have put a snippet of the letter below, and you can read the rest of it on the Surrey Leader website:

Interurban just a piece of history – Surrey Leader

Great transit is like the SkyTrain, or maybe it’s like the new 555 rapid bus: It’s reliable, frequent, runs several times daily, and is filled with choice riders – riders who justify transit over driving, largely because the services they choose are of high quality.

In one survey of riders on the new Canada Line SkyTrain, trip speed is the favourite aspect.

The old Fraser Valley interurban, which was recently described in a Frank Bucholtz column (“Surrey had great transit… 100 years ago”) as “great transit”, ran only thrice daily.

When the service started in 1910, not many could actually afford the recently invented car. It’s easy to see why ridership declined after the 1940s as the car became more affordable and routes became straighter. For many, the new options won over a three-times-daily service that cannot be missed.

I agree that it was inexcusably short-sighted that the recently partly restored interurban was ended in 1955 without a reasonable alternative, but the old interurban was not great transit. It was just… transit.

READ MORE ON THE SURREY LEADER – [CLICK HERE]