When I left my home on Burnaby Mountain on Saturday, I had no idea a cyclist had been killed on Gaglardi Way just an hour before.
I was driving a friend to the SkyTrain down the hill, but when we got to the intersection of Gaglardi and University Drive, we couldn’t turn left because of some orange barricades.
That’s when I knew something bad had happened.
So we continued down the other side of the mountain, where I managed to pull over and park so I could check my email. There was a message from the RCMP about the tragic incident in which a driver struck the cyclist.
After dropping off my friend, I sat for a minute to collect my thoughts. My laptop was at home and there was a surge inside of me knowing I needed to write a tragic story and get it online. There was a time, in my foolish youth, when I would have driven recklessly to get home.
But I’m different now. I’ve seen and written about so much carnage that I’m far more patient. I took time to relax so I would drive at the speed limit.
After all, a few minutes won’t make a difference.
Coming up the hill towards Gaglardi and University, I witnessed several scary incidents that felt even worse considering what had just happened about 90 minutes before.
There were cyclists riding up the hill to my right and down the hill to my left. I saw one driver on the left lurch around a cyclist and speed up to get by them – they were likely frustrated because they couldn’t turn down Gaglardi and, woe is them, it would take longer to get to whatever meaningless thing they had to get to.
On the right, another driver honked their horn at a cyclist as they sped by – the noise appearing to make the cyclist jolt.
But it was when I actually got to the intersection that the real gong show began. There was a mini-traffic jam as confused drivers panicked about what to do now that they couldn’t turn right down Gaglardi.
Some drivers in the far-right merge lane were lurching left to squeeze into the lane, instead of waiting for somebody to let them in.
One clown even pulled a dangerous U-turn so he could head back down the mountain.
It was a cluster(expletive deleted).
Meanwhile, a cyclist was lying dead under a tarp as RCMP investigators combed the scene.
At that moment, watching all of this mayhem, I just felt so helpless.
We’ve had four people killed on Burnaby roads in June and one more being declared neurologically deceased. All were separate incidents.
In response, the Burnaby RCMP held some sort of safety event on Thursday to hand out reflectors and information tips.
I appreciate the sentiment, but the message is that the onus is on pedestrians, cyclists and people using scooters or wheelchairs to do things to protect themselves, as opposed to enforcing traffic laws on drivers and making substantial changes to our transportation infrastructure to protect people.
It seems obvious, but I’ll say it - City of Burnaby needs more protected bike lanes.
This is terrifying, but I wish I could say it is surprising. Gaglardi is a freeway - drivers ignore the 60km/h speed limit with impunity, and every piece of road design here tells them to do so. Cyclists need separation and protection here.— Patrick Johnstone (@PJNewWest) June 30, 2019
Groups like HUB Burnaby would know the best locations better than I would. They need to be consulted on these issues because they are the people who use the roads.
I wish it didn’t take a fatality, but Gaglardi Way would seem a prime candidate. A lot of cyclists ride up and down this dangerous road every single day, with many of them attending Simon Fraser University.
The idea is supported by New Westminster politician Coun. Patrick Johnstone, who tweeted about this just hours after the fatality.
“This is terrifying, but I wish I could say it is surprising,” said the cycling advocate. “Gaglardi is a freeway - drivers ignore the 60km/h speed limit with impunity, and every piece of road design here tells them to do so. Cyclists need separation and protection here.”
Another cycling advocate who rides in Burnaby, Richard Campbell (no relation), tweeted his thoughts yesterday as well.
“Horrible. No need for two traffic lanes downhill. It just facilitates dangerous fast driving. Reallocate one lane to make a safe bike path.”
Gaglardi is a well-used road, but I’m sure it could withstand losing one lane if it meant saving some lives.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.