Rat running rankles residents

Silvana Engelke has set up an obstacle to try to dissuade or slow down vehicles rat-running from 20th Street to Stewardson Way through the alley behind her west end home. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Silvana Engelke has set up an obstacle to try to dissuade or slow down vehicles rat-running from 20th Street to Stewardson Way through the alley behind her west end home.

Just the memory of an angry rat runner screaming at her and jumping into her van in her back lane has Silvana Engelke seething.

She was off to work one morning last month when she backed out of the carport behind her 20th Street home just above Sixth Avenue. The back-end of her van was well into the lane when a car coming down the hill came to a screeching halt.

He started yelling at her, “Get the hell out of my way.” She got out and shouted, “Excuse me! You’re not supposed to be here.”

“If you’re not going to move, I’m going to move it for you,” he retorted.

And he did just that, jumping out of his car into her van and parking it back in the carport. He turned off the engine and got back into his car and continued on his merry way to easily access the Queensborough Bridge and in the process avoiding the gridlock on 20th.

Engelke was shaking in fear as she called police, and even after she made it to work at Burnaby Hospital.

“That was the last straw,” said Engelke as she watched a steady stream of rat runners come down her lane on a recent rainy afternoon rush hour.

The frightening incident spurred her into going to city council last Monday, to seek some relief.

The driver, like many others every rush hour, was avoiding the long line that backs up in the right lane on 20th Street as commuters head for the Queensborough Bridge.

The left lane on 20th is restricted to vehicles turning left at the lights to head into the centre of New Westminster. Generally there is little or no backup in that lane.

Many drivers seeking to avoid the right lane line nip over to the left lane, zip down the hill and just before the traffic lights turn left into a lane that parallels the SkyTrain line, a manoeuvre that is illegal from 6 to 9 a.m.

They then make a quick right down Engelke’s back lane which allows them to access Sixth and the bridge.

“We can’t even talk to the neighbours because we’re jumping out of the way,” said Engelke.

Alex Pavlovic, who lives across the lane from Engelke, said his wife was almost hit by a rat-runner. Dety Manalo Anacta, who also lives on 20th Street, said she fears for the safety of her daughters, age 12 and 8, when they go back and forth to school.

In the afternoon, the rat-running move is legal. However, it irked Engelke when one of the vehicles that came down the lane during the interview with the NewsLeader was a City of New Westminster tow truck destined for the impound lot in Queensborough.

“What a joke!” she said with disgust. “Even the city’s vehicles are doing it.”

She said area residents, including herself, have brought the situation up with the city’s engineering department before but nothing has been done. The vitriolic confrontation she endured spurred her to take her concerns directly to council. After her appearance, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr visited the lane and agreed with Engelke something should be done to discourage the rat running.

“There is an issue there,” said Puchmayr. “We need to look at closing that off permanently or during rush hour.”

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