Pedestrians may have to scramble

Keep your feet on the curb at Beacon and Seventh. Sidney council has decided to remove the crosswalk on the west side of Beacon Avenue at Seventh Street to help keep pedestrians safe.

“We are really concerned about people getting hit,” said mayor Larry Cross. “Over the last nine years there have been 39 incidents, that’s the reason we’re so concerned.”

Cross said there are other factors that council looked at prior to making the decision to close the crosswalk altogether. He listed driver distraction by the amount of traffic heading west toward the highway, the speed at which elderly pedestrians are able to cross the road, along with the sun sitting low on the horizon during the summer.

“As I stand here watching pedestrian traffic, 95 per cent of it is opportunistic. They’re crossing to come to where I’m standing,” said Cross, as he stood on the south east corner of Beacon Avenue and Seventh Street.

ICBC collision statistics over a four-year period, prior to the McTavish project, indicate a significantly higher volume of incidents at this intersection relative to Beacon Avenue and Resthaven Drive or Beacon Avenue and Fifth Street. From 2006 to 2009 ICBC reports a total of 39 incidents at Beacon Avenue at Seventh Street, three of which were pedestrian related. This is contrasted with statistics for the same period for the Beacon and Resthaven Drive intersection with 12 incidents, one involving a pedestrian and the Beacon and Fifth Street intersection with 10 incidents, one involving a pedestrian.

Cross said council looked at beefing up enforcement at the intersection, however, “we can’t have RCMP at this corner 24/7.”

As Cross was standing at the corner, Sidney resident Lillian Wilson crossed Beacon Avenue, using the west crosswalk — as she stepped out, a vehicle turned in front of her. “I was prepared to step back,” she said. “It’s the worst corner.”

Wilson said that she didn’t feel closing the crosswalk would be too much of an inconvenience for most pedestrians.

Another crosswalk the town has staff studying is at Fifth and Beacon. “We’re looking at a pedestrian scramble,” said Cross.

A pedestrian scramble allows walkers to cross in all directions at the same time, while drivers are stopped in all directions. “It’s in use in other areas of the country, and we’ve asked staff to take a look and see if it will work here.”

The town expects to have the crosswalk at Beacon and Seventh closed within six weeks. “We want to do it as soon as possible,” said Cross. “I think it will be safer for everybody. It will be better for drivers too — how would they feel if they hit somebody?”

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