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Reduce speed limit, improve crosswalk where teen killed, don't delay, former Saanich councillor says

Kaydence Bourque, 16, never regained consciousness after being struck by a vehicle at 9:45 p.m. Monday in a marked and lighted crosswalk

A former Saanich councillor says the municipality should make immediate improvements to the crosswalk where a teenager was struck by a vehicle and died this week.

Dean Murdock, a mayoral candidate in next year’s civic election, said he was speaking as a long-time active-transportation advocate and a father of two children ages nine and 12, including a son who uses his bike to go to and from school every day.

“This could have been my son,” Murdock said after being contacted by the Times Colonist. “The reality of this tragic situation is a young boy using the roadways trying to get home … did not get home.”

Kaydence Bourque, 16, never regained consciousness after being struck by a vehicle at 9:45 p.m. Monday in a marked and lighted crosswalk on Cedar Hill Cross Road, just 30 metres from his home on Merriman Drive. The Grade 11 student at Reynolds Secondary was pronounced dead on Tuesday afternoon, but his body was kept alive until Thursday for organ transplants.

Murdock said Saanich is three years into a 30-year Active Transportation Plan to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists along transportation corridors, but it’s a long-term plan, and immediate action is needed.

The stretch of Cedar Hill Cross Road between Cedar Hill Road and the crosswalk at Merriman Drive where Bourque was hit is prone to speeding, as vehicles accelerate down a hill and around a curve.

Neighbours have complained for years about traffic speeds on the road, where many students from neighbouring elementary, middle and high schools use the sidewalks and crosswalks to get to school and part-time jobs.

The speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour, but neighbours estimate speeds reach 70 km/h and higher.

Saanich has agreed to a three-year pilot project, still pending provincial government approval, to reduce speeds from 50 km/h to 30 on Saanich roads that don’t have a solid yellow line. Cedar Hill Cross Road, however, does have a solid yellow line.

Murdock said speed limits on Cedar Hill Cross Road should be reduced to 30 km/h, the roadway should be narrowed in both directions leading up to the crosswalk, which would slow traffic, and curb “bump-outs” should be placed on either side of the crosswalk to shorten the crossing time for pedestrians.

Elevated crosswalks force drivers to slow down, and improved signage and overhead crossing signals are also effective, he said.

“Speed is the single greatest contributor to determine whether a pedestrian survives [a vehicle impact] — that’s been proven,” said Murdock.

He said the crosswalk at Merriman Drive has had six serious incidents over the past five years, according to ICBC data, and that doesn’t include many other close calls recorded by regular users such as cyclists and walkers.

He said council should ask staff to prepare a report to identify high-risk areas and “prioritize these areas where people are at risk.”

He also wants all levels of government to commit to “Vision Zero,” a global movement to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by targeting problem areas and committing to fail-safe systems of road design, vehicle design and speed control.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said in a statement Thursday the municipality “is doubling down on its commitment to improve road safety.”

“We hear the concerns and calls for improvements to road safety and agree more needs to be done. Saanich is committed to improving road safety across the municipality and taking action.”

He said Saanich has shifted its focus from car-and-driver oriented policies and designs to a balanced approach that prioritizes active travel such as walking and cycling.

Saanich says it has built four kilometres of new sidewalks and built or improved 23 crosswalks over the past two years. At 26 traffic signals, leading pedestrian intervals were added, where pedestrians get a head start into the crosswalk before vehicles get the green light.

Many of the projects to improve transportation safety are adjacent to or near schools, said the municipality, which says it is investing $58 million over the next three years in safer streets.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign to support Kaydence’s family neared $50,000 Thursday. His mother, Crystal Bourque, thanked the nearly 500 who donated money and offered condolences.

“Thank you all for your messages, texts and posts,” she wrote in a message on the GoFundMe site. “I have kept my phone off, or away, only checking once in a while because it is too hard.

“I really do appreciate the support and I know will be reading over and over in days to come,” she said.

Bourque said surgeons at Victoria General Hospital started the operations to remove vital organs for transplants — expected to help up to eight people — at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday.

“We kissed him as much as we could and followed him to the elevator of the [operating room],” she said.

“He was so kind, so loving and would do anything for anyone.”

The fundraising campaign says it’s intended to help Crystal and Doug Bourque take time off work while they process the tragedy. The couple also have a younger daughter, Ahria, in Grade 10 at Reynolds.

A donation was made by the Bui family, whose then-11-year-old daughter was struck in a Saanich crosswalk in December 2017. Leila Bui was left with catastrophic brain injuries after she was thrown 25 metres into another vehicle. The driver was charged with dangerous driving causing bodily harm and sentenced to two years in a federal prison.

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