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Duncan strip remains a recipe for disaster

This car accident happened in Crofton in November, but it is the Duncan strip  and the inherent dangers to drivers and pedestrians that have caught the attention of writer Patrick Hrushowy.  - Andrew Leong/file
This car accident happened in Crofton in November, but it is the Duncan strip and the inherent dangers to drivers and pedestrians that have caught the attention of writer Patrick Hrushowy.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Picture a family man walking on the sidewalk along the highway strip in Duncan.

The man suddenly trips or stumbles and falls directly into the path of a passing car.

A loud thump is heard as the vehicle makes contact with the man, followed by the sounds of locked-up tires trying desperately to stop.

What had been a casual evening in town turned tragic as Warren Rogers lay critically injured on the road, comforted by the driver of the car as passersby frantically waited for the paramedics.

He was rushed to hospital and then whisked by helicopter to Victoria General Hospital, but he is gone within 24 hours.

Just a week earlier, Warmland resident Jimmy Galbraith came out on the losing end of a conflict with a motor vehicle at the north end of the highway strip near James Street.

He too was rushed to Victoria, but his injuries were so severe, and his condition complicated by suffering a heart attack during surgery, that a decision was made to allow him to pass peacefully.

Two months earlier, a bubbly teen of just 13 years died after being struck along that same highway strip, this time just south of Duncan.

Selina Natasha Joe was crossing the highway at the Boys Road intersection with a group of young friends in the wee hours of the morning but she didn’t make it.

According to police reports the young lady was alive and in considerable pain after the impact with a car and was being tended to by one of her friends when she and her friend were struck by another passing vehicle.

Joe was pronounced dead at the scene.

All of this is tragic for the people involved but is not terribly surprising. There may be small mercy in suggesting it could have been worse.

What are we supposed to expect when we mix the four-lane Island Highway with a busy commercial strip offering retail services on both sides, when we split the Cowichan Reserve lands forcing residents on both sides of the highway to face a risky crossing?

There are pedestrian signals at the three light-controlled intersections in the downtown area but it is common to see people darting across the highway anywhere from the Silver Bridge to James Street.

I confess to being one of those on rare occasions and I call myself an idiot for taking the risk.

Everything we know about town planning says you shouldn’t mix highway traffic with pedestrians.

But the highway has been there for a long time and so has the mix of commercial and residential that fosters foot traffic.

It is a recipe for disaster and the conflict in land use is at least partly responsible for the loss of lives.

Reserve lands split by a highway invites conflict and the fact of Joe’s death demonstrates the risks involved when community members attempt to live their lives across that highway divide.

The highway at James Street is an open invitation to conflict between people and cars. There is a high school on one side and fast food outlets on the other.

The Warmland residence is also a source of pedestrian traffic wishing to frequent fast food outlets on the opposite side of the highway.

It’s a wonder there hasn’t been a student meeting a tragic end at that location.

I doubt even several pedestrian overpasses would be the solution.

It’s human nature, I think, to take short cuts. The real solution is a highway bypass but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Perhaps we need periodic stepped up police enforcement of jaywalking laws to remind people to be careful, and continued visible speed limit surveillance.

Patrick Hrushowy is a Cowichan writer and political consultant. Email him at phrushowy@shaw.ca

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