Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A GRIM TASK – Kerry Nolan was one of the community members who placed flowers and a poster of Merle Gorgichuk, who died Nov. 21 after being struck at the intersection of Second Avenue and Elliott Street, on the crosswalk signs Thursday. Just eight days after Gorgichuk’s death, a young person was struck on Second Avenue near the A&W restaurant.

City must act to create a safer Second Avenue: councillor

City Coun. Laura Cabott says the city should be looking at measures to make Second Avenue safer.

By Chuck Tobin on December 6, 2019

City Coun. Laura Cabott says the city should be looking at measures to make Second Avenue safer.

Cabott told her colleagues on council at Monday’s meeting she did not want to sensationalize the tragic death of a pedestrian who was struck Nov. 21 on Second Avenue when he was in the crosswalk at Elliott Street.

But there are realities that need to be faced, the councillor suggested.

“Second Avenue has been identified as more than a problematic street in our city,” she said. “It has been characterized by many people as even dangerous and one that requires some action.

“I know the city has taken some steps throughout the years to make this street safer, but the fact of the matter is it is not a safe street.”

Cabott said Second Avenue is the city’s busiest thoroughfare, with vehicles travelling very fast along four lanes that cut through the heart of the city’s business district where people bank, shop, eat and gather.

The councillor asked administration what the city was planning to do in the long term and short term to address the problems.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga told council the Second Avenue corridor study is 95 per cent complete and is expected to be finalized before the end of the year.

It will provide a framework to address any identified problems, she said.

The city received the first draft of the corridor study last January.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, said the study will provide a number of capital budget items for consideration in future years or sooner.

There will be recommendations that administration will look at to see what can be done next year, he said.

Gau said the city-wide master transportation plan will provide a longer, 20-year plan for transportation infrastructure in the city.

Planning, said Cabott, is important, but action is also important.

“Immediate action, I think, is something the public is looking for, and has been looking for for quite a while.”

The councillor noted the reduction in speed limits that council authorized earlier this year for streets in Porter Creek out of concern for pedestrian safety.

It’s well documented that when a person is struck by a vehicle travelling 50 kilometres per hour, they will die 85 per cent of the time, Cabott said.

She said at 40 kilometres per hour, the likelihood drops to 30 per cent, and at 30 kilometres an hour – school zone speed – it’s knocked right town to 10 per cent.

Cabott said she was wondering why the city doesn’t look at some interim safety measures for Second Avenue while waiting for the corridor study and master plan.

There is, for instance, the possibility of reducing the speed limit, she suggested.

Gau said he’s not sure if the corridor study will speak to the speed limit on Second. If it does not, the city’s street and signage committee can be asked to have a look at it, he said.

Coun. Steve Roddick said he’s had a few discussions about the tragic accident and what might be done to improve pedestrian safety.

Lowering the speed limit is an option but just lowering the speed limit might not do it because Second Avenue is still four lanes of traffic that can be wide open at times, he said.

Roddick suggested addressing the safety concerns may mean looking at the design of the roadway.

But in the short term, a reduction in the speed limit might be worth a try, he said.

See editorial.

Comments (23)

Up 5 Down 0

Allan Stanley on Dec 12, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Got cut off twice this morning as I tried to use the light controlled intersection near Extra Foods.
The walk icon had been on for about 3 seconds (I always make sure that the red light runners are through) and I was 3 or 4 steps into the crossing.

Whitehorse - home of the rudest drivers in the country.

Up 1 Down 3

Humble Measure on Dec 12, 2019 at 9:15 am

Everyone's in such a hurry to get somewhere, and we have too many cars on the road. Then cars aren't safe enough, so people upgrade to a truck or SUV, with bigger blind spots and a higher death rate for any pedestrian who gets hit by one. I would have died a hundred times by now crossing Second Ave if I didn't peek around the cars stopped in lane 1 to make sure whoever is coming in lane 2 is stopping as well.

Cities are congested everywhere. City planners want to get us out of our vehicles, but the roads and parking lots are designed for cars, and they are death traps for pedestrians. Can we rethink this whole thing? Cities in Europe have closed off their shopping districts to private vehicles; it's a dream for pedestrian traffic. It's not only safer, it's so quiet and enjoyable. Why can't we do this in North America? Do we love our trucks that much?

Up 9 Down 3

Boyd Campbell on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm

For the folks who J- walk on Main Steet it's a good idea to keep it there as the traffic is going slow enough. For those who insist on doing it on 2nd and 4th your on your own. BTW is J-walking still in the books??

Up 9 Down 2

4th is bad too on Dec 10, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Fourth has the same problem.
Not that anyone cares. But throwing it out there.

Up 18 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Dec 10, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Too bad dressing in black is such a strong fashion statement these days. I nearly hit an all-black pedestrian on 4th Ave a few weeks ago. He stepped out into traffic mid block with expectations that all traffic was going to stop and allow him to cross. To be fair, I did see a smart phone in his hand so he may have been distracted with a conversation or some important web-surfing as he tried to cross the road. Nature thins the herd in a number of simple ways.

Up 16 Down 4

Yukoner71 on Dec 10, 2019 at 8:31 am

To those saying turn 4th and 2nd into one way streets, I don't think you can try to solve things by dumbing the streets down to the lowest common denominator as pedestrians only having to look one way won't solve the issue. Dropping the posted speed limit won't solve things because almost no one obeys the existing speed limit now, in large part because they know there's little traffic enforcement in Whitehorse. Traffic calming devices of some sort may work but most of them play havoc with conducting snow removal operations in winter. For my .02 cents I say put in sidewalk barriers at the uncontrolled intersections and restrict pedestrians to crossing 2nd at controlled intersections only however several more traffic lights may be required. Anyways, I think the only way pedestrians will ever cross 2nd in complete safety is at intersections where conflicting traffic has been brought to a complete stop.

Up 3 Down 6

Capitan on Dec 9, 2019 at 11:28 pm

@not in a hurry "Whitehorse is a point-and-look town". Painted right on the asphalt. That was awesome.

@Gringo The federal government planned the routes downtown (I think CMHC) and I don't think we've done any better since. They might even have foreseen that making 2nd and 4th one-way might be needed in the future. There was a lot of common sense in those plans.

Up 13 Down 2

Not in a hurry on Dec 9, 2019 at 2:50 pm

I remember 35 or so years ago it was introduced that you stuck your arm out and hand pointing across road and people seen, stopped, you crossed. It didn't matter where you decided to cross the street at. There are some who still do that today.

It was suggested after a person in a wheel chair was hit in 2016 (Feb) and passed to reduce speed limit, put in traffic calming techniques etc and the response that was given is: it is classified as part of the highway and there is nothing that can be done any further than 50KM/hr and can not impede flow by putting in calming road bumps along the way.
This was also brought up at the PDAC (Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee) that was part of the City Of Whitehorse in which made recommendations to Mayor and Council about safety not just for persons with disabilities but for everyone. unfortunately, the committee is no longer, thanks to the Mayor and well here it is again the same conversation but different councilors talking about it again that something has to/needs to be done about it.
By-law can do traffic enforcement if they see a violation of pedestrians, so why not start using them along with RCMP to start curbing the people who think 2nd Ave is a racetrack. Speed limit is 50KM/hr not 110KM/hr 80KM/hr (which is what most try to do weaving in and out).
The one way 4th and 2nd were scrapped because business's cried they would lose business if that happened and consumers cried just as loud they would have to adjust their route taken.
Most of our safety is common sense but we all know that died a long time ago.

Up 13 Down 11

hypocritical on Dec 9, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Seriously though, one person dies every year or three crossing the road and it's a national emergency, yet dozens die every year from violence and addiction yet no outcry.

Up 5 Down 9

Gringo on Dec 9, 2019 at 2:42 pm

I agree with Captain...it's long overdue. The COW does not set up any better for second to be a one way out of Riverdale and Fourth to be a one way coming down two mile. Pedestrians then only have to look one way.

Up 16 Down 7

Capitan on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:46 pm

Back in the 1990s a team of consultants suggested making 2nd Avenue and 4th Avenue one-way streets. That still makes some sense to me, but I don't think it was given 10 minutes serious consideration. Yet every other idea seems to get its day in the sun. I think I read recently something about returning bike lanes, or maybe enforcement to 4th Avenue, it feels really congested to me since that happened. I know bikes need to have their space, but that road in particular already has so many constraints.

It's really dark downtown this winter, without snow, which usually helps reflect light. The streetlights we have seem useless. I'm a fan of dark skies, but this winter especially you really can't see a pedestrian till they're on top of you. If we need streetlights, they should illuminate.

That sounds like I blame pedestrians, but I do not. Driving habits have deteriorated in the past few years. I see people sail through red lights, yellow lights so that if you're in the intersection waiting to turn left they blow through your chance. That is a regular occurrence. The unnecessary speed, dangerous passing -- what is the hurry? Man or woman driver, a lot of testosterone seems to be at the wheel.

Last week on the highway, a guy tailgated me with his high beams on, so that I missed my turnoff. The etiquette alone is a disgrace, but the lack of regard for traffic signals and so on, I just don't know why it doesn't get more attention. It's very destabilizing to not be able to trust other drivers. Pedestrians are not the problem. I would be very annoyed, for all the walking downtown I do (not much), if jaywalking was made an offence before drivers are brought in line.

I think those panels at school zones flashing your speed are quite helpful. And at Takhini School, they have those cutouts of little figures, which are both spooky and effective.

Up 23 Down 6

Josey Wales on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:30 am

For those that are holding hope for our civic wizards to fix the traffic issues...
You must be new here for starters.
If not, given their track record on civic matters, ...why hold such a futile hope?

That romantic narrative of our once sleepy lil town is today as relevant as traditional family values...both just memories of a simpler time before mega stuuuuupid socialist engineered lunacy that aids in our collective cognitive dissonance.
....now we yield to narcissistic political blowholes, criminals wishing to perform their craft... white and blue collar please do not forget that.

Our traffic is merely a mirror image of our society now.
No one gives a rats ass, until their loved ones are hurt, vehicle damaged.
Maybe when one of our political elites are mowed down, killed using a crosswalk for ffs...it may change, doubt it though.

Wilderness town indeed, and we get run over like animals on a highway...
Traffic, crime? Folks...kit up and act accordingly, chronic wail...we are clearly on our own out here.

Up 25 Down 9

Max Mack on Dec 7, 2019 at 10:06 pm

Reducing speed limits on Second Avenue will result in more congestion. This will lead to the city demanding dedicated bus lanes, which will lead to yet more congestion.
We know nothing about the causes of the recent accidents. Yet, we already have councillors beating the "blame drivers" drums.

Up 24 Down 3

Miles Epanhauser on Dec 7, 2019 at 3:02 pm

The facts are that pedestrians have to be careful and not trust drivers when crossing even at crosswalks.
One solution is to monitor and enforce bad driving habits in Whitehorse.
We all know many drivers are aggressive and pose a safety concern but there does not seem to be an effort to deal with it.

Up 37 Down 4

SheepChaser on Dec 7, 2019 at 9:01 am

I've avoided striking numerous pedestrians in three years in downtown Whitehorse. Each time having to slam on the breaks for a pedestrian entering the roadway either against a red light, j-walking or walking out into traffic without so much as a quick glance around them. From the well dressed business person engrossed in their phone to the obvious drunk in public. Driving in downtown is actually pretty stress inducing and requires any responsible driver to have their heads on a swivel.

Crosswalks are a safe right of way for pedestrians who use them safely. No roadway system can be safe when some of the participants choose to ignore the basic rules.
No one gets out of this life alive. Some are going to die early no matter how much you pad the corners. Frankly, North America is pretty well padded already.

Up 38 Down 2

Dave on Dec 7, 2019 at 4:07 am

As someone who has lived in Yukon my entire life I have never and would never consider walking across Second Avenue at one of these uncontrolled intersection crosswalks. I always walk to the nearest stoplight controlled intersection or the crosswalk in front of the courthouse with flashing lights which I still utilize very cautiously. There are enough stoplights on second Avenue now that it’s never that far out of your way to walk to a controlled intersection to go across. My life and well being is worth enough to me that I do that as a matter of habit. As with everyone else here I’ve seen both stupid drivers not paying attention and the pedestrians seemingly with a death wish heads down not paying attention. Cell phones have made things even worse especially concerning pedestrians not maintaining awareness of their surroundings.

Up 13 Down 30

Politico on Dec 6, 2019 at 8:57 pm

@Matt The speed limit is 50Km but most drivers are way over that, that's the issue. Since the police don't seem interested in enforcing that and drivers know the chances of getting caught are essentially nil what's your solution. This would be drastic but how about a stop sign at every intersection so cars don't have time to get to Daytona 500 speeds? Drastic but it would slow traffic down.

Up 36 Down 6

Guncache on Dec 6, 2019 at 7:21 pm

I have the solution. As a pedestrian as long as you're not blind, open your eyes and look for traffic. These large chunks of moving steel can kill and dismember you. You will lose when you come into contact with one.

Up 36 Down 3

Fools in charge on Dec 6, 2019 at 5:47 pm

I am always in awe when some of these elected officials speak. They seem to literally have no clue when it comes to issues on 2nd avenue. Their first mistake was to cut 4th down to single lane traffic to accommodate 2 bike lanes for 6 months of the year (which the cyclist hate). This shifted excess traffic to 2nd ave. And now you have Steve Roddick talking speed limit reduction because not only an expert on climate, he’s apparently a traffic flow expert as well. Can none of these people realize that you cannot have a 4 lane street with just a painted on crosswalk and expect it to be safe. Much like other cities, you don’t get to always just walk out and stop 4 lanes of traffic. You go to where the street lights give you the walk sign. Have any of these drivers involved in these tragic accidents been charged with speeding? But let’s not wait for RCMP results or charges. Let’s put up more pedestrian signs and listen to our newbie councillor stomp on his soap box till he gets his way.

Up 21 Down 13

jc on Dec 6, 2019 at 5:23 pm

I have no problem with lowering the speed limit to 40.

Up 24 Down 3

charles Meyer on Dec 6, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Me think, reducing the speed limit is a good part. Now if the city would put up a
couple of Crosswalking Lights in that part of the Town that would probably also help.
The City knows how much the traffic increased the last few years. They've done countless studies.
Don't study any more. Act, do something.
However, the problem lays deeper. All the signs and lights will never change the driving habits of some Idiots. They think texting while driving is ok.

Up 53 Down 4

Matt on Dec 6, 2019 at 3:45 pm

We need bubble wrap on everybody. Seriously there is no sure-fire solution with the exception of education for both pedestrians and motorists. The speed limit is slow enough but nothing is slow enough if a driver is not paying attention; and sometimes it is the pedestrian who is at fault by not paying attention.

Up 11 Down 25

Dean LaRue on Dec 6, 2019 at 3:27 pm


It's time to DO something !
Last City Election I promised to vote any candidate that vowed to improve the running of the city - I voted for NO ONE !

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.