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Kingsway-Imperial intersection a nightmare
From his second-floor office, Metrotown Mazda general manager Sean Kumagai probably has the best view of the nightmare that is the intersection of Kingsway and Imperial Street.
"From jaywalking to cars making improper turns, sometimes when I'm just watching you sort of cringe at what you see," Kumagai said.
He wasn't surprised then, to hear about a major accident last Wednesday morning that sent a woman to hospital with serious injuries. The force of the impact drove her car underneath a pickup truck which Burnaby RCMP say appears to have been making an illegal left turn.
Kumagai said vehicles on that stretch go so fast that in a couple of instances, crashes have involved vehicles jumping the curb and smashing into those parked on the Metrotown Mazda lot on the corner. "There have been a couple of incidents where we've actually had vehicles written off."
Much of the problem is due to the fact the intersection is more in the shape of an X, without any right angles, than a cross. Russell Avenue even adds a fifth leg to it, further complicating matters.
For safety reasons, there are no left turns allowed at all there but that hasn't stopped some from doing so. He's even seen people turn left from Imperial onto Kingsway, essentially at a 45-degree angle, Kumagai said, noting any attempt at making a left takes longer than normal due to the angles involved.
And for drivers turning right from the southeast corner with Imperial onto Kingsway, they often start the turn only to slam on their brakes about 30 feet away to avoid hitting a pedestrian because that's where the crosswalk is located, he added.
Diane Gillis, president of the Kingsway-Imperial Neighbourhood Assocation (KINA), said her group has coined a new term, "jayrunning," to refer to people who cross Kingsway from the southwest corner where there is no crosswalk at all.
It's understandable, she said, since people getting off at the bus stop there would otherwise have to traverse three major crosswalks, plus a smaller fourth one, to get to the northwest corner.
"They're running across six lanes of Kingsway … I saw an 85-year-old neighbour pulling her cart across Kingsway, it really concerned me."
Gillis said KINA has been working with Burnaby city hall for years trying to get improvements to the intersection, and recognizes the challenge they and police face.
"How do you make design changes to stop people from taking these chances when it's very clearly signed?"
Burnaby's city engineering department believes it has figured out solutions, and plans to make the improvements in 2014, said Doug Louie, the assistant director of engineering in charge of traffic and parking management.
To start, it plans to build two left-turn bays on Kingsway to allow the turns onto Imperial from both directions, necessary since the turns wouldn't be as safe without the bays.
"It's something from a transportation planning perspective is a desire that's easy to see," Louie said. "It just wasn't implemented because there wasn't the room to do so."
To make it happen, the sidewalks and road lanes will be narrowed to their minimum standard, creating room for the bays. Lengthy turning arrows, giving enough time to make the elongated turn, will be added to the traffic signals.
A new north-south crosswalk will be added on the west side of Imperial to make it much more convenient for people crossing Kingsway, Louie said.
As for the issue of motorists not noticing pedestrians when they're trying to turn right onto Kingsway from Imperial, he said there are plans to improve pedestrian visibility by moving lampposts and improving signage.
The project is within the engineering department's capital budget for next year, pending final approval from Burnaby council. If all goes as planned, construction could take place in the spring or summer, he said.