With a 728-signature petition in hand, a Whitehorse resident asked city council to approve safety improvements at a downtown intersection.
Matthew Thomas Ans-Helm presented his views regarding the crosswalk located at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Alexander Street to council during the city’s Sept. 18 standing committee meeting. Thomas Ans-Helm described the danger to pedestrians posed by the uncontrolled crosswalk, including two instances where he was almost hit himself and a collision that he told council left a First Nation elder in his 60s seriously injured. He said the driver in this incident was both speeding and using a cell phone.
Thomas Ans-Helm suggested a possible solution: The immediate installation of signage drawing attention to the crosswalk and a plan to quickly install a type of flashing pedestrian-activated light called rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB).
During his presentation, Thomas Ans-Helm described earlier discussions with the city’s engineering department in which he says he was told that lights may be installed in 2025 during planned upgrades to Fourth Avenue.
“Folks, that is two years away which is 730 days and nights of pedestrian-crossing risks and in many’s opinion that is too long when action can be taken to increase the safety of the crosswalk,” Thomas Ans-Helm said.
He suggested that signage could be installed before the winter, possibly on poles that are already in place, and that the RRFB lights could be done in the spring once the ground is thawed enough to dig trenches for electrical lines.
Thomas Ans-Helm said city engineering staff informed him that the type of pedestrian-crossing lights currently in use at Whitehorse intersections cost $150,000. He told council that his proposed solution could come in significantly cheaper than this. He presented research from municipalities that installed RRFB lighting at crosswalks: Calgary, Alberta and Chilliwack, British Columbia. Drawing from a report on the installation of the RRFB lights in Calgary, Thomas Ans-Helm suggested two of the lighting units could be purchased for $10,000 and installation would cost another $10,000. He also priced out signs warning motorists to slow down for the crosswalk.
Along with his presentation, Thomas Ans-Helm passed manufacturer information for the flashing lights and photos of the intersection on to council.
Based on his own close calls, the serious injury suffered by the elder and the number of people who use the crosswalk, Thomas Ans-Helm said a solution is needed. He asked council not to wait for another injury to approve the safety upgrades.
The mayor and council members did not ask Thomas Ans-Helm any questions about his presentation.
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