British Columbia

Crosswalk on the wild side: Victoria may improve sketchy pedestrian crossing across busy, 6-lane road

Every day in Victoria, at the intersection of Blanshard Street and Kings Road, you can watch a real-life game of Frogger play out as people cross one of the busiest streets in the city at a point with no marked crosswalk.

Councillor says freeway approach split Kings Road — and makes things tough for pedestrians, cylists

Cars whiz up and down Blanshard Street in Victoria. An unofficial crosswalk, which one councillor says is a vestige of the street alignment back in the 1960s is barely visible. A worn-down patch of grass on the median and metal barricades at the far end show where many residents cross. Some say it has been a long-running safety concern. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Every day in Victoria, at the intersection of Blanshard Street and Kings Road, you can watch a real-life game of Frogger play out.

There's no marked crosswalk there across Blanshard, one of the busiest streets in the city, to connect the homes and community centre to the east to the shops and bus stops to the west. A biking and walking path simply stops at Blanshard and directly across from it are sidewalks.

So pedestrians and cyclists, young and old, scramble across six lanes of non-stop traffic in a mad dash to save time on their daily routines.

"It's rough," area resident Jessi Singh said of the dangerous crossing on his way to catch a bus to Langford for work. "Otherwise I have to go a big [route]. It takes more than 20 minutes … this is, like, five minutes.

"It's a risk, though. Sometimes I see older people cross it. They are very slow."

Area residents have been fighting for years to get a controlled crossing at the intersection and now that fight may be nearing an end, as city council could approve up to $500,000 for just such a crossing.

Relic of the '60s

Coun. Ben Isitt spearheaded the motion for a new crosswalk as part of Victoria's budget process. It will be voted on Thursday.

In the 1960s, Isitt said the city tore down several blocks of homes along Blanshard to expand it into more of a freeway. That, he explained, severed some existing east-to-west connections, like Kings Road.

He says reconnecting the street for pedestrians and cyclists would help improve mobility for them, even though drivers may experience delays of up to 30 seconds going down that stretch of Blanshard.

"We often prioritize directness for motor vehicles, but that also comes at the expense of directness and convenience for people travelling by other modes of transportation," Isitt said.

"If we're serious about encouraging people and making it easy for them to get around in low-carbon, environmentally sound ways, we need to change our infrastructure along those lines."

Dodging cars

Authorities don't even agree if the crossing point meets the legal definition of a crosswalk. Isitt and a city spokesperson say it is not one.

However, a VicPD spokesperson said in an email, because the city maintains the boulevard in the middle of Blanshard, it could be argued there is an unmarked crosswalk there based on the Motor Vehicle Act and court rulings.

Vincent Gornall with the Hillside-Quadra Neighbourhood Action Committee has lived in the community for five years and said the crossing has long been known as a dicey one.

He still uses it, though. An avid bike rider, he says Kings Road is the main east-west route through the neighbourhood and it also leads toward the bus stops on Douglas Street.

"I frequently have to dodge cars," Gornall said. "I think it's really important to have really good ways of people accessing safe mobility in their community. As somebody who doesn't own a car, I want to be able to get around my city just like any other person."

Isitt said if council does approve the crosswalk spending, construction could begin in the fall.

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