Residents frustrated by lack of pedestrian safety after kids struck on Kensington Road

Jacki Hansen no longer lets her son, Coen, cross at the intersection on Kensington Road and 18th Street after he was hit by a vehicle when walking to school in the spring. (Karina Zapata/CBC - image credit)
Jacki Hansen no longer lets her son, Coen, cross at the intersection on Kensington Road and 18th Street after he was hit by a vehicle when walking to school in the spring. (Karina Zapata/CBC - image credit)

In the spring, Jacki Hansen received a call she hoped she would never get — her 8-year-old son and his best friend were hit by a vehicle while walking to school.

It happened at a crosswalk on Kensington Road and 18th Street in northwest Calgary. It's one of the many intersections along the busy road that residents have been raising concerns about for years.

"It hit him kind of straight on and then he flew backwards. The police report said about two metres backwards," said Hansen. "It was the scariest moment of my life."

Coen was sent to the hospital with minor injuries, and his best friend Fletcher wasn't hurt.

Months later, residents are continuing to call on the City of Calgary to improve pedestrian safety, as they say no comprehensive changes were made following the collision, and they continue to be in danger each day while walking along Kensington Road.

They're asking for reduced speed and reduced lanes to slow down traffic, as well as increased police presence and advocacy from their city councillor.

Many near misses

In a statement to CBC, Coun. Terry Wong said the spring incident was the only pedestrian collision at that specific intersection since 2016.

Submitted by Patrick McKay
Submitted by Patrick McKay

But many community members have reported near misses along the entirety of that road, according to Janice Paskey, transportation and mobility chair for the West Hillhurst Community Association.

"As the city's grown and the traffic volume has increased, there has been increasing concern about safety at almost every junction there along Kensington Road," said Paskey.

There are three schools along that corridor of Kensington Road, with many students who walk to and from school.

Patrick McKay, father of Fletcher — one of the children hit by a vehicle — says he's nearly been hit at the crosswalk on 14th Street, and he has numerous friends who have nearly been hit at 16th Street.

"These are all leading safety indicators that show that we have a problem. We have a documented problem. The city cannot ignore this."

Resident Jennifer Haverhals says last fall, a police cruiser blew through the crosswalk as she was crossing.

"To me, it was like, 'wow, the police officer can't see us.' This is a problem," said Haverhals.

Since then, Harverhals says almost everyday she has issues with cars not stopping for her and her son, or cars driving through the intersection as they're crossing.

Submitted by Jennifer Haverhals
Submitted by Jennifer Haverhals

She says part of the issue must be sightlines — drivers who can't see pedestrians crossing the road — but the main problem is that drivers aren't paying attention.

Hansen says she has one message that she wants the city to make very clear.

"If you're in a hurry, if you're late for work, if you're thinking that this is going to be a quicker way to get to where you're going, it's not. If you don't have the patience to wait for multiple sets of kids to walk across the street, then this is not the route you should be taking."

All improvement projects have gone unfunded since 2015

Paskey has been tracking the history of failed public engagement projects on Kensington Road as transportation chair.

All four improvement projects and opportunities undertaken by the City of Calgary since 2015 have gone unfunded — including the latest project this year.

It would have seen Kensington Road redesigned to add more bike lanes to make the road narrower and safer. After an online engagement, a consultant deemed it not worthy of funding, Paskey says.

Submitted by Janice Paskey
Submitted by Janice Paskey

"Our question is, why is there never funding for Kensington Road? There's so much concern there," said Paskey.

"I'm hoping it's not a death that promotes change."

McKay says he was surprised to see that the city put all its money into recently repaving and repainting Kensington Road.

"It's as city transportation says they don't have any money for improvement," said McKay.

He says the city must look past technicalities and calculations, and act now.

"They can do all the calculations they want, but I'm not sure any of us are going to be happy putting a calculation on a kid's headstone when someone actually gets hurt or killed or seriously maimed," said McKay.

Changes coming as early as this fall, says Coun. Wong

The City of Calgary's mobility safety team is reviewing Kensington Road from Crowchild Trail N.W. to 14th Street N.W., according to a statement by Coun. Wong.

That traffic assessment is expected to be completed in mid-October, and will outline options and timelines for comprehensive changes to improve pedestrian safety.

Some improvements can be expected as early as this fall, said the statement.

"One of the [tenets] of my campaign is for safe communities and so one collision is to be taken seriously and I am confident that the City of Calgary's administration will have insight and recommendations after their comprehensive traffic study has concluded," said the statement.

In the meantime, short-term improvements, such as pavement marking and signage improvement, have been prioritized to be completed this fall.