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Death of pedestrian in Saanich renews calls for improved road safety

Not having safe crosswalks is like not having railings on balconies, says civil engineer, a road safety advocate
A car drives by a floral memorial at a marked crosswalk at the Interurban Road and Grange Road intersection. A woman died there Friday night after she was struck by a vehicle. TIMES COLONIST

The death of a pedestrian in an Interurban Road crosswalk on Friday has prompted a Saanich road safety advocate to call for systemic change in how the municipality approaches street infrastructure improvements.

A 76-year-old woman in a marked crosswalk was struck by a vehicle and killed at the intersection of Interurban Road and Grange Road around 9 p.m., police said. It was initially reported that the woman was 55 years old.

Mauricio Curbelo, a civil engineer, said that it should not be normal for people to be run over in Saanich crosswalks almost every year.

While Curbelo believes that mayor and council have made road safety a priority and are headed in the right direction, Saanich’s road safety improvement timelines are measured in decades and reliant on developer contributions, he said.

“We deal with a lot of ­inertia,” he said, adding that he’s seen residents advocate against raised crosswalks and sidewalks for fear of needing to slow down or losing their parking spots.

“We really have to unwind a lot of assumptions about what our streets are for and how safe we should expect to be on them.”

Not having safe crosswalks is like not having railings on balconies, said Curbelo, who is a director with the Gorge Tillicum Community Association. He said he is speaking for himself, not the association.

“Even if people make mistakes, the infrastructure reduces the harm that would have happened,” he said.

“We choose to allow fast driving on our roads for ­convenience, and the result of those choices are accidents like this.”

Police have said that speed and impairment of the driver are not being considered as a factor in the Friday incident.

Curbelo questions that police assessment.

“The reality is that you’re always more likely to be killed by a car that’s travelling at 50 km/h than at 30,” he said. “So when we decide that our default speed limit is going to be 50 … that’s what happens when you get hit on that road.”

Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock said that he was saddened by the “unacceptable tragedy” and that the loss of a life weighs heavily on the community.

“We will not accept fatalities and serious injuries on our roads as inevitable,” he said in a statement. “Our neighbourhoods must be places for everyone to enjoy safely.”

In October, two people were struck and taken to hospital in separate marked crosswalks on Quadra Street and Shelbourne Street within 48 hours of each other.

In 2021, teenager Kaydence Bourque was killed in a marked and lighted crosswalk by a driver travelling on Cedar Hill Cross Road. The driver has said she intends to plead guilty to charges of careless driving at her court appearance this month.

The default speed limit of municipal roads is 50 km/h, though Saanich in recent years has introduced slower speed limits in nine traffic corridors in the municipality. Interurban Road is not part of any of those traffic corridors.

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