On the three-block walk from their Saanich home to Tillicum Elementary School, Elise Cote took a split second to check on her baby but the pedestrian signal lit up. Her six-year-old stepped into the crosswalk while a large SUV was about to skirt a right turn through the intersection, causing the mother to jump and scream at the vehicle.
“Only then did she stop and again she was within one foot of my child.”
Cote was one of the community members calling for safer roads at a Wednesday morning protest at the site where a child was struck the day prior.
“We want our children to be able to walk safely in our neighbourhood,” Cote said, adding they want pedestrian safety prioritized by the new council.
From kids who could be distracted to those with mobility issues, Cote also wants drivers to think of vulnerable street users who may not respond in the way people behind the wheel expect them to. On Tillicum Road, Cote said Saanich adding an advanced pedestrian interval allows people to get further into the crosswalk, and therefore be more visible, by the time drivers have the green and bike lanes make a buffer to the sidewalk.
It’s a “minor change for getting where you’re going (but a) major change for community members and kids in that community to get to school safely,” she said.
Road safety failures are almost an everyday occurrence for Philip Marciniak, whether it’s a vehicle turning right while he’s still in a crosswalk or when a driver cuts him off as he’s riding in a bike lane.
He echoed Cote in saying kids should still be able to be kids while still having the right to safety. He also said police’s response to Tuesday’s incident, at Shelbourne Street and San Juan Avenue, failed to put enough onus on the driver.
Despite the child being hit in a marked crosswalk, Saanich police noted motorists should use extra vigilance when approaching intersections and should proceed with caution at crosswalks, but also said they believe the driver going under the speed limit may have limited the severity of the injuries sustained by the child.
Marciniak would like to see more raised crosswalks so vehicles would be forced to slow down and it would emphasize someone could be in the walkway.
“We’re here on a crosswalk that’s marked and lit and it’s not cutting it, a child was struck.”
Mayor-elect Dean Murdock lives a few blocks from where the collision happened and showed up at Wednesday’s event because it could’ve been his kid.
“This is every parent’s worst fear, that they’re going to hear sirens and hear that their kid has been struck.”
Murdock said the district should prioritize road improvements that will quickly improve safety at higher-risk locations before the next person gets hit. He cited bollards and lighting being added to a stretch of Cedar Hill Cross a few days after two high-profile collisions last year.
“When there’s a will to make those quick fix improvements, there’s a way to do them quickly and cost-effectively,” he said, noting the San Juan crosswalk could use more overhead lights to increase visibility.
The new council campaigned on road safety so the community expects bold and rapid action, Cote said.
“We’re here to say ‘okay great you’ve got the mandate, get it done.’”
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