Staff and residents of Palmer Place walk down the narrow shoulder of Petersen Road hill – a hazardous place for pedestrians because there is no sidewalk and it is a blind corner for motorists. At the back of line

Petersen/Willis residents demand action on improvements

With no sidewalks down Petersen or Willis roads, residents who have no choice but to walk are putting themselves at risk

Marjorie Paul is riding her bike down Petersen Road on a sunny Monday morning but she wouldn’t dare think about going for a ride later in the afternoon once traffic picks up.

Dave Peters has been forced to come to a dead stop in his car on Willis Road to avoid oncoming traffic after swerving to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

These are just a small sampling of the problems residents in the Petersen and Willis road neighbourhood face on a daily basis because of a lack of proper infrastructure.

With no sidewalks down Petersen or Willis roads, residents who have no choice but to walk are putting themselves at risk of being hit by vehicles because the shoulder is so narrow. Seniors in electric mobility scooters have no choice but to ride over the white line and into the roadway because most scooters are too wide to fit on the shoulder.

“It’s extremely dangerous to have no place to walk on the Petersen hill (and) Petersen Road is a fairly heavily used pedestrian walkway,” said Peters, who lives off of Petersen Road and walks the neighbourhood nearly every day.

The lack of sidewalks is of particular concern to residents at Palmer Place on Nikola Road, off of Willis. The facility provides housing for adults with disabilities and for women who are clients of the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society. The majority of the residents do not drive and have to take the city bus to get downtown for groceries and medication. The problem is, the closest bus stop is on Petersen Road, which means the residents have to walk all the way down Willis, which is bordered by deep ditches on each side, to get to the bus stop.

Barry Kerr, the site co-ordinator at Palmer Place, said he’s seen incidents where vehicles are at a stand-still because they’re trying to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

“I’ve seen people walking on the side of the road and a vehicle goes into the other lane to go around them and if two vehicles are meeting there’s nowhere for the vehicles to go,” said Kerr who noted that the ditches along Willis also pose a hazard for pedestrians. “The ditches in the wintertime, they’re right full to the top and if someone fell in – it’s fast moving water.”

Kerr said he would like to see a bus stop put in at Walworth Road and Willis, which would avoid residents having to walk all the way down Willis.

Betty Baskin, a Petersen Road resident, enjoys walking but is nervous walking around her own neighbourhood. She wants council to put sidewalks in along both Petersen and Willis.

“It’s a long time past due and I just think it’s a shame that beautification is coming before safety,” Baskin said. “ERT was closed because it was a road that wasn’t up to safety standards and yet we have Petersen Road hill and Willis Road that is not safe for people. Maybe we should go back to the olden days and put a wooden sidewalk down the road.”

Coun. Ron Kerr has been pushing council for more than a year to invest in improvements along Willis and Petersen roads. Kerr wants the city to install a continuous pedestrian and cycling path along Willis Road, continuing on to Petersen Road between Willis and 14th Avenue. But it would be costly.

“Continuous safe pedestrian and cycling routes along the Willis and Petersen Road corridors are impractical without significant investment,” said Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager, last October. “Both roadways contain bottlenecks where simple or inexpensive options do not exist (to widen the walkway).”

The ditches also need to be replaced with a piped storm water system before they can be filled, levelled and used for a pedestrian and cycling path.