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Coquitlam adopts 'Vision Zero' to make its roads safer

Coquitlam is developing a Road Safety Strategy as well as updating its Strategic Transportation Plan.
Coquitlam is creating a Road Safety Strategy. | Krisanapong Detraphiphat/Moment/Getty Images

Coquitlam is on the road toward zero.

Last month, council unanimously adopted Vision Zero — a world-recognized approach to preventing roadway-related deaths and severe injuries.

The movement, which started in Sweden and is now being employed in Calgary, Edmonton and Surrey, is a change in how urban planners design roads to shift the focus from motor vehicles to shared use with pedestrians and cyclists.

“I feel like as a city, as an engineer, it’s our responsibility to take the most appropriate action and effective action we can to protect people on our roadways,” said Jaime Boan, Coquitlam’s general manager of engineering and public works, at the city’s June 20 strategic priorities meeting.

According to ICBC, vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in B.C.

A Road Safety Network Screening Study showed that, between 2015 and 2019, the provincial insurer received 21,696 claims from Coquitlam of which 8,100 resulted in serious injuries and 16 fatalities. And of the fatalities, many happened at intersections, in the dark or when the road was wet.

Doug McLeod, Coquitlam’s transportation director, said road safety has been a theme as the city reaches out for public comment on the draft Strategic Transportation Plan, specifically:

  • 37 per cent of respondents say feeling safe and secure influence their travel-related decisions
  • 31 per cent say dangerous drivers are barriers to walking
  • 40 per cent say speeds and dangerous drivers are barriers to cycling

Under the Road Safety Strategy (RSS) that will be developed in conjunction with the updated Strategic Transportation Plan, Coquitlam staff say they will focus on a better, interconnected road network, which will consider six themes when balancing car, pedestrian and cycling interests:

  1. Safe speeds
  2. Safe road designs (roundabouts are safer than intersections)
  3. Safe road users (to change road behaviours)
  4. Safer vehicles (intelligent transportation systems and connected infrastructure)
  5. Post-crash care (increase responsiveness to emergencies)
  6. Land use management (policies integrated into broader community planning)

The draft RSS, which is being developed with a road safety consultant, is expected to be ready by late 2024 for council’s approval.

Mayor Richard Stewart, who typically gets around the city on an e-Bike, welcomed the Vision Zero brand in Coquitlam, noting, “I have been scared out of my wits multiple times by the realities of our infrastructure, but primarily the driver.”

He also criticized ICBC for “not being part of the solution” on some projects.

“They seem to be the bureaucracy that’s holding us back.”

However, McLeod said ICBC is a partner on Coquitlam’s RSS and has funded many road safety initiatives in the past.

Coun. Brent Asmundson, a retired bus driver, said the behaviours of the drivers as well as the pedestrians and cyclists need to change to cut the number of collisions.

Coun. Steve Kim harkened to the 1970s when seat belts weren’t required.

Still, meeting chair Coun. Teri Towner said she’s dismayed at the number of tickets that Coquitlam RCMP are still handing out to drivers not wearing their seatbelts.