A small memorial placed at the site near 11th Ave and 18th St where a 14 year old girl was killed in a road accident. Mary / Supplied

Petition details anger, concerns over safety issues after 14 year old girl killed in Burnaby

In the days since a 14-year old girl lost her life on a Burnaby road, residents of the area in which she was killed have been asking the same question: ‘Why was there no sidewalk on which she could safely walk, and why didn’t the city listen to our concerns before she was killed’?

By

|

May 11, 2022 | 5:00 am

In the days since a 14-year old girl lost her life on a Burnaby road, residents of the area in which she was killed have been asking the same question: ‘Why was there no sidewalk on which she could safely walk, and why didn’t the city listen to our concerns before she was killed’?

RCMP say they were called to the area of 11th Ave and 18th St in South Burnaby last Thursday, May 5 just before 3:30pm for a report that a dump truck pulling a trailer had hit a pedestrian.

The dump truck was associated with Ledingham McAllister, the developer behind the nearby SouthGate City housing project.

Tragically, the young girl didn’t survive her injuries.

And a resident of the area tells the Beacon that she’s been sounding alarm bells about the safety of pedestrians there for months.

Mary, whom we have agreed to identify by her first name only, said that the area of 11th Ave has been the epicenter of several construction projects for about 18 months: a watermain upgrade project, two new housing developments including SouthGate City, new skating rinks, and roadworks to name a few. It’s also the site of a trucking company—where commercial vehicles are stored and sent out.

A view of 18th St at 11th Ave, near the site of last Thursday's fatal accident. Google Maps
A view of 18th St at 11th Ave, near the site of last Thursday’s fatal accident. Google Maps

Much of 11th Ave has a gravel shoulder rather than a defined sidewalk, and Mary said that pedestrians have to essentially share the road with large commercial trucks as a result.

“They take up a lot of roadway—and these roads are not built for trucks. They just are not built for trucks. They’re not wide enough. There’s no definition to the shoulder and the road itself,” she said.

“And because people live here, because there’s an elementary school (Stride), because there’s a high school (Byrne Creek Community School), because there’s a daycare in the area, people use this route on 11th Avenue to walk up and down.”

And Mary said the construction projects, many of which experienced delays due to COVID and staffing issues, have exacerbated the problem—especially since they’re all being built at the same time in the same area.

Longstanding issues of safety

It’s not the first time there have been incidents. Mary’s car was hit by a truck last year just a few months up from the site of the fatal collision, and another woman said she was hit by the rearview mirror of a truck in the same area at 11th Ave and 16th St.

Mary and several of her neighbours have been raising concerns with the municipal government since then—she said the city’s response was to remove parking on one side of 11th Ave and to try and redirect pedestrian traffic to 10th Ave.

But that’s easier said than done, she said.

“No one is going to divert themselves two blocks, or a block and a half, to walk further away from their destination. You need to accommodate people who live here. Can we please remember that this is a residential neighbourhood that industry is sharing with us?” Mary asked.

“[Yes,] they were here before us. When people say ‘when you move to a neighbourhood that has industry, what do you expect?’ I expect that the city will make it safe. That’s what I expect. You know, that’s what anybody should expect. It has to be livable. Otherwise, why did you permit housing to be built there?”

Residents don’t feel that their safety concerns were taken as seriously as they should have been, Mary said—or the city would have put in a sidewalk to ensure pedestrians who live in the neighbourhood can safely walk around their community.

Mary started a petition for Burnaby to do just that after last week’s incident. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had garnered close to 750 signatures, and many of those who signed said they had children who attended nearby schools, just like the girl who died.

“The petition is in an effort to unify us in our goals of making the area safer. That’s really what I was aiming for, because we have been asking for this for some time. … [There are] no sidewalks, poor road conditions, no beautiful greenery, to line the streets, poor lighting. All of these things contribute to lack of safety,” Mary said.

“We know that there’s inequity of sidewalks all over in Burnaby and that’s a long standing issue. We sort of feel that because of where we exist, because this isn’t a revenue-generating neighbourhood for the city, per se, that it becomes an issue of inequity.”

Immediate and long-term solutions

The matter was raised briefly at Monday night’s city council meeting, where Mayor Mike Hurley extended his condolences to the family of the girl who died, and said the city was awaiting the conclusions of the police investigation.

“I can only imagine the pain you’re all going through right now. … If the results of this investigation show the city could have done something differently to prevent this tragedy, we will make all the changes needed immediately,” Hurley said.

He said in recent days, he’s heard from residents about the stress caused by the high volume of construction traffic in the area, and that staff have been directed to find some “quick solutions”—but that residents would be engaged on how best to permanently improve safety. And he promised residents that safety is a top priority for the city.

Ledingham McAllister said in a statement that taking some immediate actions to improve safety as well.

“We will shut down a portion of 11th Avenue at the exit of our construction site. This means that trucks will now go west on 11th Avenue, instead of east. By going west, they will go from 11th Ave to 18th St, then 18th St to 10th Ave,” the company said.
“We will be extending the existing sidewalk using asphalt on a portion of the south side of 11th Ave (from 17th St to 18th St). We are assuming this responsibility from the City of Burnaby because our contractors are already on site and can get this work done quickly.”

The company also shut down its trucking activities until today to allow for that work to be completed—although it noted that other private and government entities were conducting their own work in the area unrelated to the SouthGate City project.

Mary, meanwhile, said she’s reserving judgement on whether the mayor and council’s commitment to safety in the area is a permanent one.

“When you’ve already talked and talked and talked and you feel that your concerns are being shunted to the side, you want solid proof that it’s going to be resolved. So we are hoping that the commitment that the mayor made last night is a sincere one, that he will be working closely with us and developing solutions to the issues—as we’re the people who live here,” she said.

“It is actually very important to talk to us. We’re not city engineers. We’re not road staff. We’re not flaggers and we’re not construction workers, but we live in the area and a lived experience tells you a lot more about what will and will not work than one simply looking down on a map.”

And what will work, Mary said, is simple: the community needs a sidewalk.

In a letter to the Burnaby Now, Ledingham McAllister suggested that a dog may have run out from a nearby yard and startled the girl, who ran into the road. Burnaby RCMP have cautioned the community to refrain from making any assumptions about what happened.

Mary said it doesn’t matter—in a residential area, adults and humans share their paths with dogs, cats, and squirrels. But the physical presence of a sidewalk is a safety measure in and of itself.

“If no other reason, because we walk along a sidewalk, and you have to step down from the sidewalk to the road. It is a very physical and tactile reminder to your brain. You have to turn around and look. There’s nothing that’s more compelling than that motion of stepping down into a roadway to remind you, it’s a roadway,” she said.

“She’s not at fault. A dog is not at fault. Neighbours in the area are not at fault. At fault is the lack of adequate safe passage for pedestrians and vehicles.”

Vigil planned for the victim

The child hasn’t been identified officially, but an online fundraiser started over the weekend said she and her family were recent newcomers and refugees from Afghanistan, and that the girl had been a student at the nearby Byrne Creek Community School.

“She was known to be generous, kind, loving and the eldest of her siblings, helping her Mother with all that was required in the home while also keeping her dreams alive. She excelled in her studies and took care of her younger siblings, helping her parents when and where she could,” reads the post that has so far raised more than $30,000.

“She often spoke of her future goals and aspirations to become a contributing member of the community and Canada at large. Her new life was filled with new friends, a new school, new neighbors, and a new city, and she was so proud to have arrived in Canada with so many hopes.”

Mary said she didn’t know the girl or her family personally, but that it was heartbreaking they had come here in search of a better life and safety only to have their daughter’s life ripped away.

Community members are now planning a vigil in the girl’s memory, with a time and date to be confirmed.

“We’re gonna put it there so that everyone can see it and those who wish to come by can come by and pay their respects. We just want it to be a peaceful gathering. And there’s no pressure for the family whatsoever—they have enough on their plate,” Mary said.

“The residents in the neighbourhood would really like it known to the family how deeply sorry we are for their loss. We’re very sorry that our words of heeding and caution weren’t heard. And that their daughter will not be forgotten.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

Tags in this Article

Latest Articles

November 28, 2022

Letter to Editor: Highway 1 overpass not a “sincere or realistic” project to support safe cycling

"As an avid, and I do mean avid cyclist who rides throughout the Lower Mainland it stuns me to see money being used so unwisely on such a project when so many other cycling gaps are glaringly obvious."