Burnaby Mountain roads need to be reassessed to keep all travellers safe

Changes to road design and traffic law enforcement are needed before another fatal accident occurs

Current speed limits feel more like a suggestion than a law. Photo: Andres Chavarriaga /The Peak

By: Yasmin Khalili, SFU Student

Having a university on a mountain has its perks: nice views, nearby hiking trails, and beautiful natural surroundings. Campuses located in busy cities may not have these privileges. But this picturesque mountain comes with downsides as well, one of the major ones being the commute.

Because of SFU’s location and distance from most students’ living situations, many students find themselves bussing or driving to get to their classes. Any Burnaby Mountain commuter knows that the 60 km/hr speed limit going up and down the mountain has felt like more of a suggestion than a requirement — many vehicles go at least 80 km/hr and frequently even faster on the way down.

This has created a driving environment in which drivers feel pressured to go faster. Whether it be to avoid “riding their brakes” all the way down, or for fear of being honked at, from my experience, drivers going down Burnaby Mountain have been going much faster than they should.

Unfortunately, this reckless driving has resulted in several accidents, the victims of which include pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Accidents such as these are almost always fatal due to the speed the cars are traveling. Yet even death isn’t enough to warn people to drive safe, as a recent heart-wrenching Vancouver is Awesome article describes the dangerous driving on Burnaby Mountain in the aftermath of a fatal accident.

Better understanding of road sharing between cyclists and motor vehicles, stronger reinforcement of speed limits, and significant penalties for negligence and breaking the law are good first steps toward making the roads around SFU safer for our community. But with motor vehicle collisions being the single largest contributor to accidental death in B.C., extra precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of everyone, especially those at higher risk of death or injury, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

Looking at how the roads entering and exiting SFU are designed can also be key to reducing accidents. Consider roundabouts, of which there are two at major SFU intersections. While these may be more convenient for drivers compared to stop signs as cars often aren’t required to come to a full stop, this convenience comes at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists who may be confused by how they should navigate the road space. Replacing SFU’s existing roundabouts with four-way stops may prevent this confusion. Placing additional traffic calming infrastructure such as medians along the roads leading to SFU may also reduce the problem of speed. 

On Burnaby Mountain, stronger enforcement needs to be placed on safe driving. A greater  police presence is needed to check drivers’ speeds, and hold reckless drivers accountable before an accident occurs.

Eventually, SFU would benefit from a protected and wider bike lane to both encourage biking and protect cyclists from automobile traffic. Although this may not benefit everyone, as long as changes made make road conditions safer, we are going in the right direction.

As for the rest of our community who commute by car, please remember: it is better to get to class late than to not get there at all!