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.
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.
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?
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/