By: Paige Riding, News Writer
SFU students would be some of the first to perish in a zombie apocalypse, I think to myself while walking from the AQ to the Maggie Benston Centre. It’s not just because of the heavy backpacks and sleep deprivation slowing them down; our demise will stem from the construction-induced congestion causing literal human traffic jams on this very narrow walkway between construction sites. As I would find out later, and as SFU Reddit users noticed, the situation was far from ideal.
Humour me as I paint the picture of heading to class on a lovely weekday here at SFU: As I head through campus, I am enclosed by a sheer wall of Fall Kickoff promotional posters plastered across the future entrance of the Student Union Building on one side, and blue construction fences on the other, just in front of Freedom Square. Indeed, the narrow walkway is reminiscent of a mining tunnel with the caged lights hanging above. It’s a cozy environment hidden amongst all the concrete and melancholic students. This path is the only way to reach Convocation Mall, West Mall and other buildings at the Burnaby campus (besides cutting through the Dining Hall parking lot and around to the outer stairwell, but don’t tell anyone that doesn’t read our little paper that). Walking into the madness feels like entering the boss’s lair in a video game — but even more anxiety-inducing.
Much like the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway that begins with 50 lanes and eventually ends in four, the pathway leaves little room for the flow of students during busy lunch hours. See also: me, a poor soul stuck in the Pauline Jewett residence building, having to venture to the other end of campus, while the Fall horde of students is huge. “How big is it?” some may ask. Well, it’s so big that such a condensed area results in slow-moving lines going both directions. It’s not about size, though. It’s how you use it. Included in these lines are phone-wielding students who refuse to look where they are going and those three or four people who try to walk more quickly in the middle of the walkway, resulting in them bashing everyone with their elbows. Just know that everyone hates you if you do these things.
The only noise louder than silently screaming students whose days were ruined by the human traffic jam is the deafening construction in the area tactfully labelled a “HIGH NOISE AREA.” I find myself wondering who a student should talk to to get compensated for missed class time. I’m asking for a friend who needs their tuition paid for.
It’s me. I’m the friend.
The stands that that hold up the construction fencing litter the already narrow walkway, and may be a tripping hazard. Weaving between pylons like a show pony and avoiding students stepping out from Maggie Benston is an extreme sport that I am losing at. By the time I make it out of the AQ, I am either sweaty from having to rush to Blusson after the traffic jam, drenched from the rain, or a nasty mixture of both. Combine that with being claustrophobic, and walking through the jail corridors of the AQ makes my 9:30 a.m. lecture a little less mandatory.
Reddit users have taken to the social media platform to share their memes and suggestions about the Great Freedom Square Traffic Jam of Fall 2019™. “At the very least they should put some rope up and separate foot traffic in both directions. It doesn’t help that students merge in both directions in the dead middle of the blob,” Reddit user TheTrevLife says.
User tabeh0udai adds that “the whole school is a safety risk. Current evacuation plan is to walk down the mountain.” It’s a fool-proof plan if you’re a billy goat. The construction that is inevitable across the Burnaby campus presents safety risks in terms of escape routes in the case of fires.
The SFU Risk and Emergency Planning website advises to learn the building’s escape plan. It fails to regard that these plans could be disrupted by 600 students all trying to merge into a narrow walkway to avoid burning alive.
With the soothing sounds of construction urging those walking along this path forward, the AQ walk seems, in my rather macabre inner monologue (with which I’ve had plenty of time to converse), more like a slow walk to the electric chair rather than a history class.
Next time: The alternate route.