Light idea at coffee crosswalk shelved

The crosswalk between Tim Hortons and Starbucks on Sixth Street is busy through much of the day. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
The crosswalk between Tim Hortons and Starbucks on Sixth Street is busy through much of the day.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

Although the city has set aside money for a traffic light to replace New Westminster’s coffee crosswalk it will stay the way it is for now.

The city’s 2012 capital works program includes installation of a light to replace a heavily used pedestrian crosswalk that spans Sixth Street at Belmont with a Tim Hortons at one end and a Starbucks mere steps away at the other side.

When Bart Slotman of Uptown Property Group, which runs the Westminster Centre Mall that houses Starbucks, saw the light on the city’s capital works program website map, he contacted the city because he doesn’t believe a change is needed.

Slotman said although it’s a busy crosswalk, it’s unlikely a traffic light would improve public safety. With signals already at Fifth and Sixth avenues, and cars going in and out of parking stalls along Sixth Street, traffic already goes at a slow pace and drivers have no problem stopping when pedestrians enter the crosswalk.

“Our gut feeling is just adding a light is not going to make it safer. The intersection works quite well. The presence of a crosswalk actually slows cars down,” said Slotman. “Is it a reality, or is it a perception that it is a safety issue? My gut feeling is it’s a perception not a reality. I can’t remember the last time there was an accident there…Our concern is that if you start to add another light, it’s undoubtedly going to add to the vehicular congestion in the area.”

Slotman said a light might discourage walkers while the mall would like to see the street friendlier to pedestrians. He pointed out any traffic bottleneck on Sixth Street is more a product of the light at Sixth and Sixth because frequently drivers are forced to wait for pedestrians to clear that intersection’s crosswalks before turning right.

Jerry Behl of the city’s transportation department said the plans for the new traffic light have been put on hold because the crosswalk appears to be effective.

In addition, he admitted it could be difficult to accomplish coordinating the three signals to keep traffic flowing on Sixth Street while at the same time improving public safety at the intersection.

“You don’t want to have the situation where you’ve got all these traffic signals and have the drivers try to beat those signals and speed up. But at the same time you don’t want so many people crossing that the drivers can’t move,” said Behl.

He added the city will be asking New Westminster police to pull accident stats for that intersection to see if there’s a need to improve safety at the crosswalk.

“It’s been on our mind for awhile. We haven’t felt the need to do it, although there’s a lot of pedestrians there. It’s operating OK at the moment. What we want to do is make sure it keeps operating safely,” Behl said.

He estimated the city had budgeted $150,000 to $200,000 for the project.

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