“Political Incompetence Kills.”

As a community of students, families, teachers and friends mourns the loss of a teenage girl killed in the horrific accident yesterday in Surrey, questions are rising as to why this happened in the first place. Yes, the girls were crossing outside of a controlled intersection- the question should be,why is that?

For many years, the city of Surrey has been rapidly growing, and moving forward with ambitious development plans for the City Centre area deemed as the new metropolitan core. While such development has been deemed visionary, as with anything, it has not come without a cost: in many areas of the city, streets are in terrible condition and pedestrians access and mobility has not kept pace with demand.

As an example, the Sullivan area of Surrey has undergone rapid growth in the past 5 years as townhouses have filled nearly every vacant bit of land available. However, along 152nd street between Highway 10 and 64th avenue, there several long blocks where there is only one sidewalk – the other side of this major artery has a tiny bark path. When I called the city to find out why I was told it wasn’t in the budget and not a priority.

In my own neighbourhood,it took over a year for the city to agree to put a crosswalk in at a heavy traffic crossing, and far longer to get it actually installed. Thankfully while there have been many close calls, no one has been killed.

I’m a passionate person and I strongly advocate that liveable communities must first be safe communities. Safe from crime, safe to travel in, safe to walk as a pedestrian in. And in a city that encourages families to move to, how our children get around is a huge concern for many.

So why isn’t the city making that a priority? Daryl Dela Cruz is a Surrey resident, and at 17 years old, shows wisdom beyond his years. As Surrey residents, he and I have been in contact for a couple of years and he attended the political writing workshop I was a part of earlier this year. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to think out of the box, as well as his ability to address issues with a huge dose of reality. And to be honest, he gives me faith in our future.

In the midst of a communities grief, Daryl took on the issue of the lack of safe crossings in Surrey, while addressing why cities need to take into consideration the inability of youth to always process information and make the choices adults would.

The resulting post, is something every municipal politician in the province should read, and heed. And I might add,Daryl is but 17 years old:

 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 today and it struck me that the accident occurred 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 caused 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.

~snip~

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:

  • 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.
  • There are no crosswalks on the entire four-lane stretch of road.
  • There are no crosswalks fronting the local business cluster, despite the school, significant residential and transit stop on the other side.
  • 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.

64th 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 64th Ave very easily, as there are no obstructions to face. On the entire four-block stretch of road, there are no crosswalks.

~snip~

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?

~snip~

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.

Read the rest of this exceptional post at http://darylvsworld.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/political-incompetence-kills/

9 thoughts on ““Political Incompetence Kills.”

  1. e.a.foster

    Great article! The kid’s letter was amazing. It is to be hoped he runs for politics some day on a platform of traffic safety. Surrey wanted to save some money so children had to die. I hope the savings were worth it. People need to understand that without taxes increasing services and necessary projects will not go ahead. As a result next time the death could be your own.

    Maybe a painting party might be in order. If the city can’t afford a cross walk, perhaps a couple of kids with spray cans can paint a cross walk at corners and a slow to 30 direction on the road as the drivers approach the crossings. If they city can’t do the things kids need to stay alive, there is no reason they can’t do them, themselves. If a arrested the kid can always say they were acting in self defense.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I suspect based on the variety of statements coming from various city officials yesterday, that a crosswalk will show up pretty darn quick. It doesn’t look good to have it known the school requested one and was turned down.

      Like

  2. Curt

    Mayor Watts and council are too busy developing areas far away from the city centre. Campbell Heights. Too busy developing alr lands, allowing the OVER development up in areas such as Clayton where you can’t even park in front of your own home; streets so narrow it makes it difficult to navigate through, even fire trucks have a hard time. But hey, sidewalks aren’t needed. One of the next huge development areas (heard over 10,000 people expected) between 32 and 24th ave 176 to 184 st. Oh, did I mention, Mayor Watts’ property just happens to be on that hill too. Who is it this council and Mayor are really looking after? Not the citizens, imo.

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    1. Laila

      Yes, I know about that new development planned south of Highway 10 – Watts has stated she would excuse herself from voting on the project when it comes up for voting again because her property is in the neighbourhood concept, however inquries show she did not excuse herself from prior votes or discussion on this issue, although it greatly impacts the value of her property. http://www.surreyleader.com/news/189275241.html

      Many neighbourhoods have had enough and a couple of new community groups have formed to lobby the city to halt development until infrastructure is in place to deal with the influx of people. There still aren’t enough schools, etc. to keep up. And yes, sidewalks are vital in every area,in particular where families are living! There are missing sidewalks all over in many areas.

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  3. nonconfidencevote

    I guess I have to somewhat disagree about the title of your story Laila.
    If the mayor or city council is expected to approve every crosswalk in Surrey. Surrey, one of the largest municipalities in Canada, then not much else is going to get done.
    This school crosswalk should have been a no-brainer but the beaurocracy of most levels of govt these days seems to reward sloth, ignorance and zero incentive to “get things done”. The city engineering dept could have installed that frigging thing in a few weeks. Paint, power for lights, a couple of poles, some signs and wages for either umpteen dozen city “workers” or a sub contractor to actually do the work.
    And, of course, the knee jerk reaction of the police is typical. Writing tickets AFTER the deadly event for a few days. Drive by there next week. No cops to be seen, would be my guess.
    After a tragedy such as this I fully expect a crosswalk to be installed over the next few weeks…..

    But with the driving abilities of most lower mainlanders regressing back to a “dog eat dog” mentality I expect a crosswalk wont make much difference. Wasnt the poor girl in Coquitlam who was mowed down and killed by a Hit and Run driver walking in a crosswalk a few weeks ago?

    Like

    1. Laila

      You bring up several good points.

      Clearly the city can’t approve every single request. But as you said, and as Daryl has pointed out, it should be a no-brainer in a situation like this for the very reasons Daryl points out in his post. Sullivan Heights Secondary is another tragedy waiting to happen – the school is located on 144st, and there are two bus-stops on each side of the street right across from the school entrance.Kids either have to walk all the way down, or all the way up a large hill to cross at a lighted intersection, then come back down or walk back up the school, which takes a very long time. So, they hop off the bus and run across a very very busy artery. I have personally seen many near hits there with kids trying to get to school on time after getting off the bus. There absolutely should be a cross walk there. As Daryl points out, teens don’t always think the same way adults do and when limited time is available to get from point A to Point B, its not likely they are going to walk that much further to get lunch/get to school on time/ catch the bus that’s coming.

      Daryl did a few interviews yesterday – his post really hit home on many levels.

      I also agree drivers in the lower mainland are insane sometimes. I, along with other parents, have seen many red light runners at the intersection where we cross to get our kids to school, and we have a crossing guard – which by the way, took forever to get as well.

      People need to slow down and pay attention, whether they are drivers or pedestrians. No driving and texting, no walking and texting. Put the devices away. Look around you.

      Like

      1. nonconfidencevote

        …..and let us not forgive or forget the IDIOT of a Judge that just allowed a woman to walk free out of court for
        a) Speeding aprox 25km over the limit.
        b) Running a red light
        c) Losing control of a vehicle
        d) Smashing into a car at the intersection
        e) Killing two young people in the prime of their lives.

        Well done “Justice” System.
        Perhaps its time we elected judges so we can toss this incompetant jackass out?

        Like

  4. Mosko

    I know that stretch of 152nd Street between Hwy 10 and 64th Avenue. As well as no sidewalk on the east side there is no place to cycle without literally being right in the path of vehicles. The only option is to use that bark path which is bumpy, loose and almost as dangerous as being in traffic.

    The development Watts will not vote on will go the way she wants her “team” to vote because they are always on the same page. The result will be a windfall for the mayor when she sells to move away from the development.

    Like

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