Opinion: This is New West’s worst crosswalk. Blame the drivers

Chris Campbell

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing about traffic issues in the past 18 months, it’s that most drivers take absolutely no responsibility for their actions.

Present a mountain of evidence about bad driving – including video - and most of them will still say it’s the fault of pedestrians and cyclists, or the way the road is designed, or blah, blah, blah.

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Drivers will read that last sentence and simply accuse me of being a cycling zealot. I’m not. I’m a driver and sometimes I am also part of the problem.

To atone for past misdeeds, I write this blog to raise awareness about bad driving.

To that end, I present New Westminster’s worst crosswalk – Royal Avenue and 8th Street.

royal avenue new westminster
Pedestrians try to cross Royal Avenue at 8th Street in a controlled crosswalk in New Westminster as a truck waits for the line to move. Patrick Johnstone photo

What happens here is that during the afternoon-evening weekday rush hour, Royal is lined up with vehicles heading east. It’s a big intersection and drivers sneak up to the back of the line, which doesn’t move until after the light has changed. That leaves vehicles either in the intersection or in the middle of the crosswalk.

I’ll let New Westminster Coun. Patrick Johnstone take it from here.
“For pedestrians, this creates an uncomfortable and potentially hazardous situation,” he told me. “For people with mobility challenges or other barriers, this may be an impenetrable barrier. How does a person with a visual impairment navigate this? How can I ask a parent to be comfortable asking their child to navigate this pedestrian realm?”

How indeed. I’ve seen this situation before, but it never really impacted me on a gut level because I was in my car.

royal avenue new westminster traffic
A pedestrian tries to cross Royal Avenue at 8th Street in a controlled crosswalk in New Westminster as vehicles wait for the line to move. Patrick Johnstone photo

Johnstone sent me several photos he’s taken over time and as you can see, it’s a terrible situation. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.

Imagine the lack of awareness – or conscience - it must take to sit in the middle of a crosswalk as pedestrians and cyclists navigate around you. And all because you are trying to save a couple of minutes.

I get that rush-hour commuting is painful, but that’s the way it is when you choose to drive instead of take transit. Shaving those minutes isn’t worth it.

As you can see from one of the photos, there are also big trucks that park their ass right in the crosswalk. It’s ridiculous and sad and dangerous.

Johnstone told me there might be an engineering solution, such as adjusting signal timing or just banning left turns.

“But I see the bigger problem being cultural,” he said. “For pedestrians of all ages and abilities to feel safe in our city, we need a cultural shift on the part of drivers.”

Johnstone wrote about this issue on his blog here. It’s a good point. As we hopefully work towards being less dependent on vehicles to, well, save our planet, we need to better transit, yes, but also safer streets to encourage more cycling and walking.

That starts with not being a jerk and getting stuck in the middle of a crosswalk.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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