After 7 pedestrians hit in Prince Rupert, B.C., crosswalks, community group hopes to improve road safety

After a year in which at least seven people people were struck by vehicles while walking on city crosswalks, a new community group hopes to improve pedestrian safety in Prince Rupert.

Mayor Lee Brain says he will be speaking with province in the new year

Low visibility is an issue on Prince Rupert streets during winter months. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

After a year in which at least seven people people were struck by vehicles while walking on city crosswalks, a new community group hopes to improve pedestrian safety in Prince Rupert.

According to statistics gathered by the Northern View newspaper, 11 pedestrians were hit by vehicles in Prince Rupert in 2017, seven of whom were on crosswalks. In one incident, a 70-year-old man was killed when he got out of his vehicle to clear debris off the road.

"It's an alarming number … especially for such a small population," said Complete Streets for Prince Rupert founder Chris Lightfoot in an interview with CBC Daybreak Northhost Carolina de Ryk. Prince Rupert has about 10,000 people.

Lightfoot wants both the city and province to improve road design in Prince Rupert in order to reduce the number of incidents in 2018.

Chris Lightfoot said a lack of dedicated space for bikes is an issue in Prince Rupert. (Complete Streets for Prince Rupert)

He said one reason for accidents could be Prince Rupert's location on the coast, where winter months are marked by dark, rainy nights. However, he noted accidents also occur during the day, and pointed to the width of roads throughout the city.

"A lot of our roads are designed for the convenience of cars and sometimes it's not for the benefit of a person who wants to cross the street," he said.

He also noted the lack of a complete trail or bike-riding system, making it difficult for people to get around without having to frequently walk alongside or across roads filled with vehicles.

Lightfoot said his three key priorities for the city would be adding curb extensions, reducing speed limits through the downtown and adding separated bike or alternative transport lanes.

One of Complete Streets for Prince Rupert's top recommendations is curb extensions on main thoroughfares. (Complete Streets for Prince Rupert)

Though there has not been an official response to Lightfoot's recommendations, the issue of crosswalk safety came up at Prince Rupert's final council meeting of 2017, which was held Dec. 11.

During the meeting, Coun. Wade Niesh related a story of how his wife had almost been hit while crossing an intersection near the local gymnastics club, and noted the lack of lighting in that area.

"There are hundreds of children using those crosswalks," he said. "It's a bit of concern… we've had some pedestrians get run over lately."

Mayor Lee Brain said he had been in contact with the regional manager of highways about road safety in Prince Rupert and there would be a broad discussion around the issues in 2018.