Photo: Daily Hive

Tsawwassen Mills Mall had a great consumer opening with some setbacks, such as a big traffic hangover and the death of the prized four-foot long sturgeon fish in the freshwater tank at the Bass Pro Store. We like the idea of seeing things that are truly of this place and we take pride in it-like the rare sturgeon fish. The mega mall, all 1.2 million square feet of it, and the associated 6,000 parking spaces were built because it is assumed that we are a car oriented culture, that will spend a lot of time at one place, one very big place, shopping. We are the fish. The mall is the pond. And surprise,some people locally like to walk and cycle to the mall.

The Delta Optimist reports that the Delta Council is continuing attempts to get the Province to build a five million dollar pedestrian overpass across Highway 17 and 52nd Street connecting the Tsawwassen community with the mega mall. Instead of normalizing the intersection, making proper pedestrian curb bulges, refuges and medians, and slowing traffic to allow pedestrians to safely cross, Council is advocating for a HUGE multimillion dollar pedestrian overpass. There is already a fully signalized intersection with pedestrian activation at this intersection. There are just no improvements at the intersection for people who are walking and biking at grade, or a pedestrian light long enough for folks crossing with baby buggies or wheelchairs. Instead of advocating for an improvement of the current at grade crossing of the highway, Delta Council wants a big pedestrian bridge overpass engineering solution that allows for the smooth flow of vehicle traffic, not the comfort and convenience of other users. This is classic 20th century motordom thinking.

Except on major highways where  traffic is not stopped at intersections, pedestrian overpasses simply serve to further separate walkers, wheelers and cyclists from the street plane.  Those overpasses are really tough on people with mobility challenges and wheelchairs, or pushing prams. In the aptly named Perils for Pedestrians, there are three instances where pedestrian overpasses can be considered:

1.  Crossing huge highways where stopping traffic is not an option;

2. Crossings when there are no roads crossing major highways;

3. Crossing river, ravines, natural obstacles, train tracks.

Part of the construction of these pedestrian overpasses is the mandatory use of them, complete with fences and guardrails to ensure that users like cattle are guided across the pedestrian overpass.

Delta has already gone to the Province and the Ministry of Transportation has already done a study on the overpass, and deemed it had no significant benefit. Instead of working on improving the experience for bus passengers, pedestrians and cyclists using this at-grade crossing, Delta is continuing to press for their overpass, saying that “pedestrians have to traverse a 40-metre-long crosswalk across seven lanes of traffic and two additional turning lanes beyond the pedestrian refuge islands. Pedestrians trying to cross at night are placed at even further risk. Ferry traffic exacerbates the situation.”

All of this can be mitigated by an enhanced at grade crossing with good lighting, a reduction and redesign of the two turning lanes and actually building the facilities as if pedestrians and cyclists truly mattered. Road speed on Highway 17 should also be reduced between the 52nd Avenue and 56th Avenue intersections to 60 kilometers an hour anticipating different car movements as well as the pedestrian crossings.  Delta also notes that the 52nd Avenue intersection’s pedestrian refuges are filled to capacity,  and people are crossing the street to get a bus on the mean concrete transit stops plonked on the highway.  If that is so perhaps it is time to redesign this intersection to allow Delta residents who love to walk and cycle the chance to get across this intersection safely at grade. Our lives depend on it.