Residents asking for a crosswalk in their Cloverdale neighbourhood took their demands to the street last Wednesday, picketing on the busy corner of 168 Street and 57A Avenue during rush hour.
Nearly two-dozen protesters – who ranged from grandmas and moms to elementary school students and a toddler or two – waived signs reading Keep our Children Safe, Safety First, and Give Us A Cross Walk.
Many motorists racing past in the afternoon rush honked and waved in support, but didn’t slow down much, inadvertently underscoring the residents’ concerns.
“Every day you try to cross here, it’s a nightmare,” said Chrissy Burbank, a parent of two boys. Her youngest attends nearby Surrey Centre Elementary, while her teen goes to Lord Tweedsmuir, making for several crossings a day by foot or car. “We’re never sure if we’re going to get hit by a car.”
A resident of 14 years who’s witnessed the once-sleepy, quasi-rural neighbourhood grow into a bustling residential enclave, Burbank said the city of Surrey initially promised to install a light at the intersection, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Residents trying to turn onto 168 St. from 57A Ave. wait for a break in the stream of traffic, or wind up driving through the subdivision to 60 Avenue, adding to congestion around the elementary school at drop off and pick-up times.
“We need something for parents and kids to cross safely here,” she said.
Protest organizer Trudy Hemrick said she’s grown frustrated by the city’s refusal to install a cross walk across 168 Street at 57A Avenue, an intersection that connects pedestrians and motorists with nearby Surrey Centre Elementary.
A count performed by the City of Surrey found just five people an hour cross the street here – insufficient numbers for a crosswalk.
Hemrick was told motorists are prone to ignore a crosswalk when they aren’t accustomed to seeing pedestrians using them, making the situation worse, according to the city officials she’s spoken with.
But that explanation doesn’t wash with Hemrick, who says she’ll continue to press for solutions, whether it’s installing warning lights in addition to a crosswalk or even a light.
She pointed to local amenities like a park, and a farm-fresh produce stand at 168 Street and Highway 10 – places she and her neighbours would like to be able to walk to without fear of being mowed down.
The commotion of the demonstration attracted the attention – and immediate support – of Ravina Chand, a nurse who lives in the home on the northeast corner of 168 Street and 57A Avenue.
“I live right there and I watched a woman die on my front lawn,” she said. “She got T-boned. I’ve seen people getting hit on a bike. At 2:30 in the morning, people drive down here at highway speeds.”
She won’t allow her teenage sons to cross the street, and has witnessed children running across 168 Street so they don’t get hit.
“They shouldn’t have to do that,” she said, stressing she’d like the city to do everything in its power to improve pedestrian and motorist safety on her corner.
“There’s nothing to control this intersection. I have seen nightmare after nightmare living here.”
City Engineer Amer Afridi, who met with protesters, promised to take further steps, such as performing another count at longer intervals than the previous one, and looking into adding a left hand turn lane and other line adjustments to slow traffic.
“The crosswalk is definitely not an answer for this intersection,” he said.
ICBC records show there have been 17 crashes involving vehicles at the intersection between 2007 and 2011; one involved a cyclist, another a pedestrian.
[See related story: ‘Interactive maps show B.C.’s worst crash locations.’]
According to ICBC, the most dangerous intersection to cross on foot in Cloverdale is 64 Avenue and 176 Street, with six pedestrians struck between 2007 and 2011. The second worst is 56 Avenue (Highway 10) and 177B Street, with five pedestrians hit over the same five-year span.
Four pedestrians have been struck between 2007 and 2011 at the intersection of 168 Street and 60 Avenue, ICBC says.
“It would be nice if the city could make this safer,” resident Leah Chandler said. “A lot of people would appreciate it.”