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Council grapples with crosswalk conundrum

Proposed realignment of the crosswalk at McBride and East Columbia. - City of New Westminster report
Proposed realignment of the crosswalk at McBride and East Columbia.
— image credit: City of New Westminster report

A solution to a dangerous New Westminster crosswalk has been found but it would come at a cost to heritage.

City staff recommended the crossing at the foot of McBride Boulevard and Columbia Street be moved to the intersection’s corner. But council put off making a final decision.

The recommendation would make pedestrians and cyclists more visible, said the report. Many westbound drivers make a turn onto McBride during red lights even though it’s illegal.

The crosswalk is currently located several metres from the corner. It was put there so pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair or scooter users could avoid a steep 12 per cent grade to connect to the Central Valley Greenway. But that made them difficult to see. A staff report suggested cutting a three- to five-metre hole in the Woodlands heritage wall to connect to the trail. That would both make the crosswalk safer without the precipitous topographical challenges.

It’s a solution Victoria Hill resident Vince Kreiser likes. He’s the one that brought it to the city’s attention.

“We’ve been very lucky to have no accidents to this point,” said Kreiser. “This should have never been built this way in the first place.”

Coun. Bill Harper said it’s a dangerous corner and if they don’t make an opening in the wall crosswalk users might take an unsafe route to avoid the steep hill. But Coun. Lorrie Williams would like the city to find another way to make it safe. She suggests either angling the crosswalk or installing railings.

“I’m just loathe to take any part of the wall if we don’t have to,” said Williams.

Coun. Betty McIntosh said the city’s access committee didn’t like any of the options suggested and the heritage committee opposes tampering with the wall. She said staff did not present any options that thought outside the box for council to consider.

Coun. Jonathan Coté said in an interview a small hole in the wall would not diminish its historical significance. Not doing it makes it “very unfriendly for cyclists and pedestrians” and a deterrent to anyone using the path.

Kreiser said the corner already lost a lot of historical significance with the removal of the gate that used to be there.

“Here we are talking about four or five metres of that wall. To me [the gate] was way more historically significant,” said Kreiser. “The horse is already out of the barn when you’re talking about saving four or five metres of the wall.”

Council decided to table its final decision. Mayor Wayne Wright said he was in a quandary about what to do and wants to go to the corner himself to have a closer look. Kreiser said he would contact Wright’s office about accompanying him for the visit.

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