The City of Surrey has already installed 30 of these solar-powered crosswalk lights and more are on the way. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).

Are solar-powered crosswalk lights a bright idea?

A Guildford resident says he can’t understand why the city of Surrey would do such a ‘stupid thing’

SURREY — The City of Surrey’s decision to install solar-powered crosswalk lights in Surrey, here on the so-called wet coast, has come under some scrutiny.

But city councillor Tom Gill, chairman of Surrey’s transportation and infrastructure committee, is defending the 30 or so solar-powered pedestrian signals already installed throughout the city and says more are to come.

“We are planning to continue with this technology for the foreseable future. We’re probably looking at a dozen installations in 2018 and another probably dozen, 10 to 12 units per year, past that.”

“In terms of the issue that you’ve thrown at me, that’s the first that I’ve heard…the pilot project fared well. I’m going to look into it,” Gill told the Now-Leader.

A Guildford resident named Terry, who asked that his last name not be published, recently contacted the Now-Leader to tell us he thinks using solar powered lights is not a good idea where safety is concerned.

“You may be interested in asking the Surrey councillors why they would do such a stupid thing as putting up a solar-powered light, a flashing light for pedestrians to cross the road,” he told the Now-Leader.

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Terry said he recently tried the solar-powered crosswalk at 101st Avenue and 151st Streeet, by the movie theatre in Guildford, and it wasn’t working.

“It’s not like it’s some obscure intersection, it’s actually quite busy,” he said.

“We’ve had the snow, the clouds, and I figured the battery went dead. People are wearing dark clothes. They push a button and just automatically cross. I thought it was rather stupid putting solar power in an area that if it’s cloudy, and we’re short of daytime, it wouldn’t be working properly.”

“It turns dark so early,” Terry noted. “It doesn’t get bright out until, what, 7 o’clock and around 3 o’clock it starts getting dark.

“In the dark, no lights flashing, and people are bound to maybe get injured or almost run over, because that’s the reason why they put it there in the first place.”

Gill said the solar-powered crosswalk are cheaper to run than regular lights and can hold a charge.

“There’s a battery, yes.”

Tom Gill, Surrey city councillor

“We piloted it for well over a year,” Gill said of the technology. “My understanding is that in our pilot project we did not experience any failures that we are aware of. I am also not aware of the issue around overcast being a problem.”

Terry said he tried the crosswalk button on Dec. 29. “I pushed it this afternoon at 12:30, and it was as dead as a door nail. It was dead as a door nail at 6 o’clock in the evening yesterday. So obviously somebody is getting paid an awful lot of money at the City of Surrey to buy junk for the city.”

He tried it again a few days later, he said, and it worked.

We tried pushing the button for ourselves, at about noon on both Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, the latter try in a dense fog, and the lights worked.

On Jan. 2 we also asked a man who’d just used the crosswalk what he thought of it operating on solar power. He identified himself as “Art, just Art.”

(Apparently people other than city councillors don’t want their last names published in stories about solar-powered crosswalks).

Art said he uses the crosswalk all the time, also at night.

“Sometimes one works and the other one doesn’t work, it’s like that,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

He’d rather see a standard traffic light installed there, he said, with green, yellow and red.

“It should be a light.”

Gill asked city staff on Jan. 3 to advise him if they’ve encountered any failures and Jaime Boan, manager of transportation, said they would look into Terry’s complaint.

“The review we undertook in December showed that we have to date only had an issue with power at one of the approximately 30 installed,” Boan told Gill. “In that case we installed a larger solar panel and additional batteries. We will look at 151 Street and 101 Avenue to confirm the issue and look at a similar solution if appropriate.”

EIGHT PEDESTRIANS KILLED IN 2017

Meantime, a 90-year-old man was sent to in hospital with serious injuries after Surrey recorded its first major pedestrian-related crash of the year last Thursday evening, at 72nd Avenue and 130th Street in Newton. He was struck by a Ford pickup truck.

The victim had been crossing in a crosswalk at an intersection with standard street lights, not solar-powered lights.

“It looks like the driver turned left into the pedestrian there, didn’t see him for whatever reason,” Surrey RCMP Corporal Scotty Schumann said Friday. “The driver remained on scene and is cooperating with police.”

“Visibility will be considered,” Schumann said. “Nothing is being discounted right now except for speed and impairment. Those are not being considered as factors.”

According to the Surrey RCMP, in 2017 eight pedestrians — most of them senior citizens — were killed and 10 were seriously injured on Surrey’s streets. All told, there were 20 traffic fatalities and 23 serious injuries in Surrey in 2017.

In comparison, 10 pedestrians were killed in Surrey in 2016 and 20 were seriously injured. That year, Surrey recorded 14 fatalities and 29 people seriously hurt in crashes.

  • On Dec. 15, 2017 an 81-year-old man was struck by an SUV turning into a strip mall in the 7100-block of Scott Road, and died in hospital. It’s not known if he was jaywalking.
  • On Dec. 8, 2017 two women were hit in a marked crosswalk near 128th Street and 80th Avenue in Newton. One of them later died of her injuries.
  • On Oct. 27, 2017 an elderly woman was killed when hit by a car while crossing over to the Surrey side of Scott Road, in the 7700-block. She was also jaywalking.
  • On Sept. 26, 2017 a 28-year-old man was killed in a hit-and-run near 143rd Street and 92nd Avenue. The pedestrian died in hospital after a passerby found him lying unconscious on the road.
  • On June 15, 2017 a 21-year-old woman was fatally struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk at 168th Street and 60th Avenue and died in hospital six days later. She had complained about feeling “invisible” in that crosswalk before.
  • On March 26, 2017 an 88-year-old man was fatally struck by a car while walking in the 7000-block of 138th Street, and died in hospital.


tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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