A group of Campbell River seniors living at Ironwood Place say traffic issues around their residence have gotten so bad that they’re afraid to step foot outside of their home.
It’s gotten to the point where some residents of the seniors home won’t even risk the short walk across the street to the Campbell River Common Mall.
“A few residents take a taxi to get across the street to go to Dollarama,” says Rita Bresson, administrator of Ironwood Place.
“This is their home, they should feel safe to go outside of their home but they don’t, they’re terrified.”
The reason, she says, is that residents are afraid to use the traffic light-controlled intersection at Ironwood and 13th Avenue (at the entrance to the mall) because cars turning right off of 16th onto Ironwood often don’t see the residents stepping into the crosswalk and there have been near misses. One Ironwood Place resident says he recently saw a man at the crosswalk fall out of his wheelchair while trying to cross Ironwood.
As an alternative, Bresson says they’ve been asking the city for several years for a flashing light at the crosswalk at 14th and Ironwood, a crosswalk at which Bresson says “no one stops for them” when trying to cross the street. Bresson says thus far the city won’t commit to the light which leaves the residents in peril.
“To be sitting here during the day and hear the screaming of brakes, we start worrying trying to figure out which residents are signed out,” Bresson says.
“These are the people who built our country, who built our city,” adds Ironwood Place resident Margaret Christoling. “We don’t want it to end up like Nanaimo who said they wouldn’t do it, it won’t work, until a six-year-old got killed and then they put the lights in.”
And now, to make matters worse, she says, BC Transit, with its recent route adjustments has added to the residents’ safety concerns by taking away the bus stop across the street from Ironwood Place – the stop most commonly used by the residents.
“To try and get this (pedestrian) light, and nothing, and now to have their bus stop taken away,” Bresson says. “We’re done.”
Now, in order to get uptown in the most direct manner, Bresson says residents have to walk down Ironwood to 16th Avenue, and cross 16th to get to the bus stop.
Martin Broeren, who takes the bus to visit his wife at Yucalta Lodge every day, says it’s a challenge to get to the bus stop on 16th.
“It’s a dark place, there’s no light there, the crosswalk is hardly visible and how am I going to get down there in the wintertime?” Broeren wonders. “I have a walker and I can’t push it in the snow. So that’s a bad scene.
There’s also no shelter at that particular bus stop and it’s really just a patch of dirt which resident Jim Hambly says poses a problem for those with mobility challenges.
“I was told they can’t load a wheelchair at that location because there’s no sidewalk there,” he says. “There needs to be a sidewalk to lower the ramp.”
Jonathon Dyck, communications manager for BC Transit, says bus stop infrastructure is the responsibility of the city and that Transit works with the city to identify areas that need improvement.
“We work hard to provide accessible bus stops in areas that they would be required,” he says. “We will definitely review this bus stop with the city and see if that can be improved.”
As for the location of the bus stop, Dyck says in making the changes to the Campbell River system, Transit worked hard to improve frequency and to make routes more direct. He says in order to provide increased service to those living in the 16th Avenue and Ironwood area, the frequency of routes 1, 2, 3 and 7 in that area was increased.
“Our goal is to provide service within a 400 metre walk to transit based on best practices for transit,” Dyck says. “The changes to the system still reflect this goal and does allow for the proper walking distance from Ironwood Place.”
Having said that, Dyck says BC Transit is more than willing to discuss any concerns with transit users.
“Anytime a significant change is made, it takes time to adjust to the new system, and we are committed to working with current and future transit riders,” he says. “Our planners and the city are willing to meet with groups of people that may have questions or comments about the system to help with trip planning based on the new routes and identify areas that can be improved.
“We will be reviewing the system after six months to see how it is functioning and determine if there are further changes that need to be made,” Dyck added, noting that Transit has already added a section to the Oyster River bus route to accommodate people at the south end of the route based on feedback from transit users about lengthier route times.
As for the city and the pedestrian light, the city acknowledges that Ironwood Place first asked for a pedestrian crossing light in 2009 at Ironwood and 14th and the site was subsequently reviewed by the city.
“Even though, at the time, the traffic counts didn’t technically warrant upgrades, the city added crosswalk signs and reviewed street lighting and sightlines to enhance pedestrian safety,” says Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager. “The location was reviewed again in 2014 and traffic numbers and conditions did not technically warrant upgrades at that time either.”
Hadfield says the 14th Avenue/Ironwood crosswalk is expected to be reviewed once again this year by the city’s transportation department, however, there is no additional funding in the budget to install a flashing pedestrian light in 2017. Hadfield also notes that funding for crosswalk improvements “is allocated according to greatest need based on a community-wide assessment.”
Hadfield says if there are ongoing safety concerns, that residents are encouraged to report it to law enforcement.
“If people are noticing hazardous driving conditions or that drivers are consistently not stopping for pedestrians, people are encouraged to contact the RCMP for increased monitoring and enforcement,” says Hadfield, adding that this is the time of year drivers often need a reminder to use caution at pedestrian crossings, particularly as “we’re getting into a season of poor weather and shorter daylight hours.”