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'Someone is going to get hit': Port Coquitlam seniors fear collisions with cyclists at 'unsafe' underpass

"Yahoos on racing bikes" a concern for local seniors that want more protection from cyclists speeding through underpasses downtown and along Traboulay PoCo Trail.

"It's only a matter of time before someone gets hit."

That's the worry of Gail Peneff and several other seniors who use a Port Coquitlam walkway to access the Shaughnessy Station mall for shopping.

The seniors, who live at the RJ Kent Residences (2675 Shaughnessy St.) say the Shaughnessy Street underpass that connects the downtown core with Lougheed Highway is too narrow for cyclists to ride through.

And they say hundreds of seniors who live nearby, many at other retirement homes in the area, face danger when they walk or ride their scooters.

The underpass on Shaughnessy Street is their main concern, as well as the Kingsway Avenue underpass along the Traboulay PoCo Trail.

They worry they'll get hit by a cyclist when walking through these two areas.

"Even though they honk, seniors don't hear it. Many seniors are hard of hearing," said Peneff.

The seniors claim, although there is a sign indicating riders must dismount at the Shaughnessy Street underpass, it's rarely enforced, and there have been several near misses between cyclists and pedestrians.

There are no signs requiring cyclists to dismount at the Kingsway underpass on the Traboulay PoCo Trail, where it is also very busy.

Seniors have to 'jump out of the way'

John Hurtubise says cyclists on road bikes aren't the only problem, explaining people on electric bikes and skateboarders cruise through without stopping.

"I just step aside and let them go," said the 96-year-old who goes out for walks on a daily basis.

The seniors would like to see more signage to discourage cycling through both underpasses, including signs on the ground.

They would also welcome barriers that would make it difficult for cyclists to ride through the narrow underpass: they would have to stop and dismount before entering the covered walkway.

Peneff demonstrated how she jumps onto the iron railing when she sees a cyclist coming. "They just zoom by," she said.

"We have not had any complaints about this for quite a number of years. Bylaw Officers are out patrolling and do address it at the time," PoCo bylaw manager Paula Jones says in a statement to the Tri-City News.

"We encourage cyclists to be mindful of other pedestrians walking through and to dismount."

Traboulay PoCo Trail underpass 'unsafe'

Helen Zarelli said the railway underpass beneath Kingsway Avenue, along the Traboulay PoCo trail, is a dangerous spot because there isn't any separation between pedestrians and cyclists.

She describes the route as very narrow next to the Coquitlam River.

On the day then the Tri-City News visited, there was so much "traffic" beneath the overpass that a reporter had to crowd onto a narrow rocky shoulder to stay out of the way of several cyclists.

Some slowed when they saw a crowd of seniors and one woman stopped and got off her bike.

One young boy, named Luka, was towing a cart with a skateboard and a bike inside and was stopping to pick up litter along the route while his caregiver watched with another baby in her arms.

It was easy to see the potential for a major accident.

Last Sunday (July 17), Peneff said she was afraid of someone getting hit when a couple pushing a stroller and a child on a small bike were passing through the underpass while two "yahoos on their racing bikes" rode through without stopping.

"It's a disaster waiting to happen," she said.

The seniors want signage requiring cyclists to dismount at the north and south entrances to the Kingsway underpass, and possibly a barrier requiring them to get off their bikes.

Seniors afraid to go shopping

The seniors say they enjoy the nature along the river and want to be able to use the trail safely. They also want to be able to get to Safeway at Shaughnessy Station without being worried about getting hit by a cyclist.

Some improvements have been made, Peneff said, including a pedestrian-activated crossing at Shaughnessy Street and Elgin Avenue.

But more should be done to make it safe for elderly people to be active in the area, she said, noting there are at least three other seniors' residences in downtown PoCo.

The back alley to RJ Kent, where the seniors live, is also scary for seniors to traverse because it is full of delivery trucks and an alternate walkway along Kingsway Avenue is challenging because of steep stairs and lack of a railing to protect seniors against speeding cars.

Being a railway town, Port Coquitlam has long struggled to accommodate rail traffic, cars and pedestrians.

The Shaughnessy Street underpass is a relic from the days when cars were king, however, the seniors say changes should be made to ensure safety of pedestrians.

They'd like the city to do more to make the area safer for seniors and others using the busy thoroughfare to do their daily chores, visit Lions Park or simply take a stroll along the Coquitlam River.

"We need a safety zone," Peneff said.

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