Park Ex neighbourhood hopes pedestrian crossing happens before tragedy does

·3 min read
Crossing guard Danny Pavlopoulos is worried about the safety of children when they cross the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and St-Roch Street. (Sandra Hercegova/CBC - image credit)
Crossing guard Danny Pavlopoulos is worried about the safety of children when they cross the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and St-Roch Street. (Sandra Hercegova/CBC - image credit)

When Danny Pavlopoulos took over as the crossing guard at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and St-Roch Street last month, he was shocked by how chaotic and dangerous the intersection was.

It's in the heart of the Parc-Extension neighbourhood, known to many as Park Ex, and is surrounded by four schools, two churches and some daycares. It's also along the route of two of the busiest bus routes of the city, the 80 and 179.

"There are no traffic lights, so we are not sure who has the right of way," Pavlopoulos said.

"Everyone is fending for themselves... there's a lot of close calls and families — mainly mothers — who are trying to cross the street, while people in vehicles are trying to cross as well."

Pavlopoulos filed a request via 311 for the city to install a pedestrian crossing light at the troublesome intersection, which he calls "dangerous and unprotected."

Part of the problem, according to Pavlopoulos, is drivers using the neighbourhood as a shortcut to avoid traffic on major thoroughfares like Jean-Talon Street and De L'Acadie Boulevard.

The intersection is used as a shortcut by motorists and is near schools, daycares and churches.
The intersection is used as a shortcut by motorists and is near schools, daycares and churches.(Sandra Hercegova/CBC)

He thinks slowing the intersection down with a pedestrian crosswalk could steer them away.

Residents and parents in the neighbourhood have also voiced their concerns. Many do not feel safe venturing into the intersection unless Pavlopoulos is there to protect them.

Sasha Dyck has two children and, by his count, crosses the intersection at least eight times a day.

He says the corner is "quite dangerous because you have the 80 bus stop, you have cars that go fast on St-Roch and they think the stop sign is just a suggestion, you have a depanneur with very large trucks making deliveries and blocking the intersection and then you have so many kids."

"You are looking at hundreds of kids, every day going back and forth from school," Dyck said.

"Many of these kids in the neighbourhood go home for lunch from school, so it's extra traffic."

Julie Forget stops in her tracks as a large truck turns abruptly onto St-Roch.

"Look at this truck passing! And with the kids running around.... It's not safe for the kids," she said.

Rani Sivanathan is an elderly resident of the area. She says drivers seem unwilling to stop when she tries to navigate her way across the intersection.

"I have a problem with my leg, sometimes I can't go fast when crossing the street and this is a dangerous thing," Sivanathan says.

The community is hoping to avoid a tragedy like the one that occurred a few blocks away on Feb. 16 at the corner of Jean-Talon and Wiseman Avenue. A woman in her 30s was killed when she was hit by a delivery truck.

"If it can happen to someone with 30 years of experience, you can only imagine what can happen to kids who are running and are heading to and from school alone, which is why there is a crossing guard," Pavlopoulos said.

Pavlopoulos took over at the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and St-Roch Street last month.
Pavlopoulos took over at the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and St-Roch Street last month.(Sandra Hercegova/CBC)

City councillor Mary Deros says she worked for years to make the streets of Park Ex safer and she's aware of the recent request for a traffic light.

"Everything is possible but it does not happen overnight," Deros said. "It's being analyzed right now by the city services. They are going to do a study."

In the meantime, Deros has also asked for a police presence during school peak times to make sure cars are respecting the crossing guard.

But Pavlopoulos says a study and police aren't what's needed, especially in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood where, he says, "police presence creates fear and tension" for many residents.

He and many other residents hope the simple solution of a pedestrian crossing light will happen sooner rather than later.

"If we want to keep families on the island, we need to prove to them that it is safe here," Pavlopoulos said.