What's it like crossing Whitehorse's notorious downtown drag?

The street is the main drag through Whitehorse’s downtown but in the past six weeks, two pedestrians have been hit in crosswalks on Second Avenue. A 48-year-old man was killed after being hit by a pickup truck.

'This whole area scares me,' says local pedestrian

Amanda Vizi crosses Second Avenue in Whitehorse. (Kiyoshi Maguire/CBC)

Scary. Nervous. Cars flying by and failing to stop. Pedestrians stepping out onto the street and looking at their phones instead of traffic. Those are a few of the ways pedestrians describe attempting to cross Second Avenue.

The street is the main drag through Whitehorse's downtown. In the past six weeks, two pedestrians have been hit in crosswalks on Second Avenue. A 48-year-old man, Merle Gorgichuk, was killed after being hit by a pickup truck. 

The two most recent collisions happened on the stretch of Second Avenue from Main Street to Robert Service Way. That spans seven intersections — and about half of those are marked by signs.

Erin Allison waited for traffic to stop at the crosswalk at Second Avenue and Elliott Street during lunch hour Monday. 

I almost got hit going this way six months pregnant.- Erin Allison

She said she was waiting and searching to see if anybody would stop because many people don't.

"It's always been scary, but now after having the two people hit, I try to avoid these sections. I almost got hit going this way six months pregnant, crossing the street here too. This whole area scares me," she said.

Erin Allison says she prefers to cross Second Avenue where there are traffic lights instead of just crosswalk signs. (Kiyoshi Maguire/CBC)

"So I try to go to the actual light crosswalks because it seems like it's the only place that's safe."

Amanda Vizi works in a building at Second Avenue and Elliott Street, and needs to cross Second at least twice a day to get to her parking spot. 

She waits to cross the street by crosswalk signs with photos of Gorgichuk, and flowers to mark where he was struck. 

"I'm very careful after the accident to look both ways constantly because no one stops until you step out on the street. It's been better since the accident, but I do still find that it's very challenging. You have to be very mindful. Very cautious," Vizi said.

Amanda Vizi crosses Second Avenue twice a day to get from her parking spot to work. She says she's a 'bit nervous' while waiting to cross. (Kiyoshi Maguire/CBC)

Vizi said she feels "a little bit nervous" while she waits to cross, but she tries to make eye contact with drivers before stepping out. 

"I know with the sun at times, it's very challenging for people to see," she said.

At around noon during the winter months, the sun is low on the horizon. The sun can be in drivers' eyes when they are heading southbound on Second Avenue.

Taku Harris crossed Second Avenue at Main Street where there's a traffic light and walk sign. 

Taku Harris says both drivers and pedestrians need to pay attention. (Kiyoshi Maguire/CBC)

He said both drivers and pedestrians are not paying attention.

"I actually think it's a combination of drivers looking at their phones and I've had numerous people just walk out in front of me — I've had people staring at their phones walking out in front of me," Harris said.

"People need to smarten up on both ends of the spectrum."

A number of people CBC News spoke to suggested lowering the speed limit on Second Avenue from 50 km/h to 30 km/h and adding more blinking crosswalk lights.

'I don't have that power,' says mayor

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis agrees that safety on Second Avenue is a big concern — but says there's not much the city can do.

He says it's up to police to enforce speed limits, and the territorial government to update the Motor Vehicles Act to allow for higher fines.

"I would love to sit here and say I'm going to start fining people or flogging people that are speeding on the streets, but I don't have that power, I don't have that jurisdiction," Curtis said.

Curtis also dismissed the idea of more visible crosswalks.

"This is the 'Autobahn of the Yukon,' and it's just unacceptable. But to have more and more flashing crosswalks and more things like this to slow things down, it's just going to agitate people a bit more," he said.


Jane Sponagle is the Current Affairs producer for CBC Yukon based in Whitehorse. Jane started her CBC career with The World This Hour in Toronto before heading to the North. After a few months in Yellowknife, Jane moved to Iqaluit where she spent six years reporting on politics, food security and housing. She has also reported with CBC in Halifax.

With files from Chris Windeyer


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