Grande Prairie downtown businesses want more saftey measures for pedestrians

·5 min read

Some Grande Prairie businesses are upset with city council's decision not to add flashing lights to a crosswalk in the downtown core.

The Grande Prairie Downtown Association (GPDA) sent a letter to council requesting rapid flashing lights be installed at four mid-block crossing along 100 Ave.

“On more than one occasion, there has been witnessed near-misses with pedestrians crossing in front of Bama Furniture,” said GPDA executive director Wendy Bosch in the letter. Bosch, also a city councillor, removed herself from discussion in council chambers due to a possible conflict of interest.

“It seems that the type of traffic that lives in Grande Prairie and parks in that more narrow parking lane now really blocks the view of pedestrians trying to cross the road,” said coun. Gladys Blackmore.

“I think we need to address this more proactively; I think we need to install the traffic flashers.”

The city said at a June 7 Infrastructure and Economic Development Committee meeting that the rapid lighting would cost approximately $15,000; to do all the intersections along 100 Ave. would cost approximately $60,000.

The committee decided then to have administration bring back a report with a funding source, regarding adding flashing beacons at the 100 Ave mid-block crossings.

The report came back on July 5 with a recommendation from city administration not to move forward with the installation.

“Our analysis of these intersections indicator that they meet current engineering standards, that they have acceptable sightlines and that they meet all of our criteria for regular crosswalk installation,” said Wade Nellis, city assistant manager of transportation and parks.

“There are other intersections that we would prefer to do these installations at prior to considering these downtown locations.”

One of the crosswalks mentioned in Bosch’s letter sits in front of Beata Bator’s jewelry store, Eternity Fine Jewellery & Heirlooms. Bator says she has seen many near misses and often hears the screeching tires of motorists stopping for the pedestrian crossing.

“When I hear screeching wheels, I'm right there, and my heart stops, and I'm afraid of what's going to happen,” she explains to Town & Country News.

She noted that people wait long times for traffic to stop at the crosswalks; she pointed out her shop window and watched as a woman stood at the crosswalk while vehicles continued to pass by before one finally stopped allowing the pedestrian to cross.

“I would love to see the rapid lights installed here and keep people safe downtown.

"We made it beautiful, and there's no reason why people have to be scared crossing the street,” said Bator.

Shirley Hanson’s store Pure Home Design is two doors down from Bator; she has had close calls at the crosswalk.

She recalled a time when a vehicle stopped, and another continued crossing through the intersection on the south lane while she was crossing. Had she not stopped and looked while crossing, she fears she could have been struck by the vehicle.

According to a city report at the July 5 council meeting, the mid-block buildouts were a safety feature for pedestrians, as part of the downtown overhaul.

“These allow pedestrians to emerge from the parking lanes and make themselves visible to oncoming traffic while reducing the actual crossing distance to only nine metres,” says the city report.

The report also notes that signalized crossings are only 80 metres away from each crosswalk in question.

Bator noted she believes speed is a factor on 100 Ave., and many people do not follow the 50 km/h limit.

Councillor Dylan Bressey noted the report from city administration did not say what average speeds were on that stretch of 100 Ave., and made the motion for the city to conduct a speed study.

“I'd like to continue this conversation by getting an idea of what are the actual speeds there, is it just a few people speeding or lots of people speeding through there,” said Bressey.

Council directed administration to conduct a speed study on 100 Ave.

“I don't think that's going to solve the problem,” said Bator, “what they're going to spend on the study could go towards lights itself.”

Hanson believes the lights would be very effective for downtown.

“What is it going to take? Do we have to have somebody killed before the city says, ‘Oh gee, I guess people do rip through that intersection,’ or do they do something proactively,” said Hanson.

City engineers say the crosswalk in front of the concerned store owners is satisfactory, and note there has been no pedestrian collisions reported in five years.

“Sometimes we have to rely on the evidence of our engineering staff and the measures and the assessments that they do and not just assume that we have a better knowledge of that,” said coun. John Lehners on July 5.

Although the crosswalk in front of Bator and Hanson’s stores is between 99 St. and 100 St., the analysis from city engineering was done between 100 and 101 St., one block west of the major crosswalk of concern.

“The intersection that we chose was based on trying to find one that was far enough away from the active construction site to give us the closest approximation of regular traffic flows,” said Nellis, who says there is no believed difference in pedestrian counts from the two locations.

“We'd need a spike of nearly 100 pedestrians a day to really justify the installation of pedestrian beacons according to the standards that we use right now,” he said.

Hanson’s business has been downtown in two different locations, once a block west on 100 Ave. She believes her current spot is much busier than her last location.

Bator has also noted that engineering on the street redesign may have overlooked accessibility issues for people with disabilities.

"People with disabilities park there, and they can't quite go up the sidewalk," said Bator.

There are no lower pavement areas to access the sidewalk from the street, except at the crosswalks, which would cause the person to go out into traffic, she noted.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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