NEWS 1130 recently published data obtained from ICBC, that shows the Main Street and Terminal Avenue intersection in Vancouver is the most dangerous intersection in British Columbia. In fact, there at least one incident every two months last year. The intersection is a microcosm for the many risks associated with moving people and goods through a dense urban environment. The City has implemented strategic speed limits and protected left turns in various parts of the city, but the question remains: why is this particular intersection so dangerous and what is the City going to do about it? We want to start by exploring what makes this intersection particularly dangerous.
Growing Pedestrian Volumes
Located on the north side of Terminal is the Main Street/Science World Skytrain station. TransLink reported record ridership in 2017, with 105 million boardings on the Expo line which run through this station. With more transit ridership comes more pedestrian traffic. The highest proportion of pedestrian collisions occur from 3:00pm – 6:00pm, so it’s no surprise this commuter heavy area ranks at the top of the most dangerous intersection list.
Main & Terminal is not a designated school zone. Science World attracts large groups of children each day, with many arriving on field trips by school bus and public transit. This puts additional pressure on neighbouring crosswalks during peak daytime hours.
Nearly 1 in 5 people killed in car crashes every year in British Columbia are pedestrians, with 75% of all pedestrian collisions happening at intersections.
Bike Commuter Hub
The Main & Terminal intersection incorporates marked bike lanes and the neighbouring Science World portion of seawall channels up to 8,200 cyclists a day during peak periods in the Summer. Many of these cyclists leave the seawall at Terminal to connect with the Skytrain as well as nearby East/West bike routes on Adanac, Terminal, and Great Northern Way. The lower level of the Skytrain now includes a secure bike commuter station.
This intersection also has advance green functionality across all lights. Because Main and Terminal is a gateway into many areas of the downtown core, drivers feel pressed for time when navigating the intersection and often take reckless late left turns, thus increasing the chances of an accident. This problem is compounded during peak volumes when drivers have been waiting at the intersection for multiple light rotations.
The City has also recently enforced a 30km/hr speed limit along Hasting street in the nearby Downtown Eastside (DTES), in hopes to create a pedestrian safety zone. However, with slower moving traffic in this neighbourhood, it can be argued this shifted aggressive driving behaviours to occur outside of the DTES. Many members of the DTES community also frequent this dangerous intersection, and with some of them panhandling or squeegeeing in the intersection..
What Can the City Do?
The City needs to address pedestrian safety at the Main and Terminal intersection, but the question remains, what can the City actually do? The City is forced to balance between safety and throughput as well as the multiple different modes of transport. Changes made in the interests of safety could increase gridlock and push risks to other exit/entrance points to the downtown core.
An X-Crosswalk or a “Pedestrian Scramble” is a traffic signal movement that stops all vehicular traffic, and allows pedestrians to cross in every direction, including diagonally, all at the same time. This prioritizes the flow of pedestrians over vehicle traffic, and it’s been proven to benefit pedestrian safety. The City of Vancouver considered this type of crossing before in 2013, but deemed the project too disruptive in terms of pedestrian confusion and traffic congestion. While those reasons are surely downsides, we believe the City should revisit this solution, analyzing the impact on this intersection specifically. This change could be connected to the removal of the viaducts and the development of new transportation corridors to the downtown core.
Pedestrian Head Starts
An adjustment that could be easily made is to adjust the pedestrian traffic light to allow for an interval of walk time before the main intersection signal changes. This will give pedestrians a buffer of time where they have the intersection to themselves before cars are able to take left or right turns. This also will improve the visibility of pedestrians by reducing the amount of vehicles turning at the same time as people are walking across the street. This minimal change will also minimize the smallest amount of commute disturbance to drivers.
Protected intersections were originally designed to protect bike lanes from the vehicle traffic in the intersections. Essentially a “corner island” is put in place, which forces the driver to turn a full 90 degrees ahead of hitting the crosswalk whenever they’re making a right turn. This gives the driver a better view of who is in the crosswalk before they make the turn. This solution does come at a cost, and would negatively impact traffic first when the “islands” are being built, and again when they’re in place and taking up space in the intersection.
Prohibition of Right-on-Red
Another way to encourage pedestrian safety is to prohibit drivers from turning right on a red light. Seattle made this change on a number of their downtown intersections in their bid to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. This is a low cost restriction to implement, but would have a negative impact on traffic as one lane of traffic would be unable to turn until the light turned to green, which could ultimately lead to driver’s ignoring the signage and making dangerous right turns.
While these solutions certainly need to be analyzed and investigated in order to justify the change, the fact remains that City of Vancouver has to commit time and resources to ensure this dangerous intersection doesn’t claim the lives of pedestrians year after year.
If you or someone you know is in need of a Vancouver pedestrian accident lawyer, contact our trusted personal injury lawyers in Vancouver BC. At Taylor & Blair LLP, we have helped thousands of injured accident victims and their families get the compensation they deserve. Call us at 604-737-6900 to schedule a free consultation on your case.