The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Kids learn this before their first geometry class.
For some who live on the south side of the Lougheed Highway, the straight line to Westviews Secondary is a path alongside Amara Place, townhouses located midway between 207th and Laity streets.
The path leads to the highway.
On the north side is 210th Street, a direct route to school.
All you have to do is find a break in four lanes of traffic, and run for your life.
Rafael Lopez, a 15-year Amara resident, told me Westview students from the complex won’t use this route. Their parents drive them.
Yet, despite the crosses marking where motorists and cyclists have died, other teens living behind Amara migrate down the path to Lougheed.
Lopez says it’s not only kids. Adults cross here, too.
Traffic lights at 210th and Laity streets are safer, but it’s human nature to save time and energy.
Folks have been lucky. But the other week, a 14-year-old was hit by a pickup truck. The boy has broken bones, but he could have been killed.
The next teen, or slower senior headed to Second Crumbs for lunch, might not fare so well.
Lougheed, from 207th to 222nd streets, has become a nightmare for most folks.
Jackie Chow is back from the Netherlands “drooling” over highway overpasses for cyclists, and pedestrians. Low speed limits promote the safety of those who ride or walk.
Locally, more kids could walk to school, adults cycle to the mall if the political will existed to fix mistakes we’ve made in planning.
The speed at 210th St. is 60 kilometres.hour. We could reduce it.
Lopez often hears drivers using the highway as a drag strip. The RCMP set up radar traps near 210th St. It’s not a solution.
“A crosswalk is desperately needed here,” Tanya Delmark said last week.
Her son is a friend of the teen who was hit. She sees kids cross here every day. So do I, after school, on their way home.
At the Maple Ridge district meeting on pedestrian safety in November, I urged a push button light at 210th St.
Last week, district engineer Dave Pollock, told me he’s discussed a crossing with the Ministry of Transporation and the poor lighting between 207th and 222nd streets. And he says a bike lane east of 216th Street has also been talked about. It’s a scary piece of road for anyone.
I asked Pollock what the province thought about a light at 210th St.?
“The ministry position is that if someone chooses to cross at that location, that’s their choice. I’ve asked to re-establish contact with them to discuss the situation further, but I don’t have any guarantees that they’d have a different position.”
“It would certainly be an alternative that would separate the pedestrians and the traffic. It’s one of the measures we’d like to discuss with them. Funding would be a challenge. But, is it a good solution? [Some] people will still take the easier way to cross the street.”
That’s true, but, frankly, it’s a rationalization for inaction, the sort we frequently hear from levels of government that share responsibility. Things don’t change with finger-pointing. It’s allowed the District to approve housing developments for families in places where there’s no school. We need new thinking, a lust for accountability.
Where to start? The distance between lights on the highway encourages people to jay-walk. It’s not enough to say they should walk to a light, and sit on our hands. A kid or senior will die. It’s as certain as an oil spill on an Enbridge pipeline.
Let’s establish continuous collaboration here as the Dutch have – Maple Ridge, the province, school board, neighborhoods, all stakeholders. A louder voice to discuss bike paths, overpasses, traffic lights would be heard.
In the meantime, lowering the speed on the Lougheed might save a life. No one has to drive 60 km/h (more like 80) into the centre of town.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.