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EDITORIAL: Traffic calming makes streets safer

Garibaldi Way is a brighter - and safer - place to walk this week.

Garibaldi Way is a brighter - and safer - place to walk this week.

Unfortunately, the new lights that are now illuminating the busy pedestrian crosswalk are in place too late for not one, but two Squamish residents who have died in traffic accidents in the past two months.

To its credit, the District of Squamish was already working on improving the lighting after the death of an 84-year-old man while crossing the street in November. The fact that yet another pedestrian lost his life on the same street just days before the new lights went up is further proof, though none was necessary, that the improvements were needed. It also makes last week's accident that much more tragic.

It's pointless to ask if those lives might have been spared if the District had been proactive and installed better lighting before these accidents occurred.

Tragedy is what spurs us to action - and positive moves can come from that action. We see that in the new Sea to Sky commuter bus service, which certainly would not be operating today if it weren't for the terrible accident last January that claimed the lives of seven Squamish residents, including five Whistler workers on their way home from a late night shift. We even see it in the outpouring of support and relief efforts, including a massive humanitarian effort here at home, for the millions affected by the tsunami in Southeast Asia.

But instead of simply reacting to a tragedy like the Garibaldi Way deaths by fixing the immediate problem, perhaps we can also take a look at other areas where it's dangerous for people to walk and make improvements there before more lives are lost.

One place that comes immediately to mind is Government Road - particularly through the Eagle Watch viewing area in Brackendale. This main artery sees heavy traffic flying through, often at high speed, while residents and tourists struggle to cross the road. It's dangerous in full daylight as tourists attempt to cross the road and with little to no lighting, it's even worse at night. Improved lighting helps the latter problem, but what's really needed is a signaled pedestrian crossing to help people get across. At the same time, it's a much-needed traffic calming measure for motorists who treat Government Road like a speedway in the area.

There's no need to wait for another person to die before taking action.

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