The College of New Caledonia has taken the first step, and probably the most sensible one, towards dealing with the problem of students dodging traffic across Highway 97.
Following the death last week of Sandeep Kaur, the college has blocked off the path that leads directly from the east entrance to the college to Highway 97. The pathway is a remnant of when the BC Transit stop for the college was on the highway (there’s even still a bus stop sign there). Now all the BC Transit buses loop directly through the college, which makes way more sense than having the buses stop along the busy, busy Highway 97 corridor.
But the walkway to the highway remains, creating a natural, logical route for students leaving the college.
The problem is the walkway delivers the students to nowhere. It emerges from under some stately trees and shrubs and delivers pedestrians onto the shoulder of a four-lane highway that doesn’t even have sidewalks to direct pedestrians to light-controlled intersections at 22nd Avenue or 15th Avenue.
Pedestrians, mostly CNC students, are constantly dodging traffic to cross at that spot. It’s amazing there hasn’t been a serious accident there before now.
We don’t yet know the details of the crash that cost Sandeep Kaur her life. The driver, Michelle Dac, has been charged with impaired driving causing death, so if that charge holds there is certainly culpability there. In addition, there is no indication Kaur was doing anything other than being responsible a pedestrian.
What we do know is that the pathway from CNC to Highway 97 funnels pedestrians to a highway where there is no pedestrian-friendly choice and pedestrians often take their chances.
Since the accident, there have been plenty of calls for a pedestrian overpass, underpass, lights, and more at the location. There is a petition circulating calling for the Ministry of Transportation to do something.
The most logical solution is to do what the college has done – block off that pathway. Right now it’s just done with some tape, but removing the concrete walkway and replacing it with sod and bushes, or a memorial to Kaur, to create a physical barrier to accessing the highway would be the best course of action.
Pedestrians will gripe that going to 15th and/or 22nd avenues is too far and those intersections are scary enough for pedestrians, even with lights. However, eliminating the game of Frogger that occurs there every day is worth it.