Skip to main content

New Westminster residents, mayor push for 'Vision Zero' strategy following pedestrian death


Calls for the City of New Westminster to adopt a 'Vision Zero' strategy – which seeks to eliminate deaths and injuries on roadways – are growing after a man was struck and killed by a truck earlier this month.

The fatal crash happened on Feb.19 on the 100-block of East Columbia Street, a stretch of road some residents say has long been cause for concern.

Mihai Cirstea grew up in New Westminster and now volunteers with Vision Zero Vancouver, an advocacy group in the Lower Mainland focused on creating safer roadways.

“When you’re there, you’re just inches away from really high-volume, high-speed traffic - most of it trucks, and it feels incredibly dangerous,” Cirstea said about the area where the fatality occurred.

“There’s no other place to walk.”

The New Westminster Police Department said a review of dashcam video and witness statements did not reveal any evidence of criminality.

"The work has now shifted from a criminal investigation to one where information is being gathered to provide to the City of New Westminster Engineering Services for consideration," a media release last week said.

Alex Biedka often bikes along this path that’s part of The Central Valley Greenway. He said because of the lack of a protective barrier, cyclists are often riding next to semi-trucks and cars.

“Nothing’s addressed until there’s a problem like this,” Biedka told CTV News. “I think it should be a higher priority especially with more of a transition to more sustainable transportation methods.”

According to public data from ICBC, there were at least 11 crashes involving pedestrians along the stretch of East Columbia between Alberta and Braid streets between 2016 and 2020.

New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone said the section of street has been an issue since the city was designed, noting that the narrow lanes and sidewalk force people to walk next to heavy traffic.

Johnstone said engineering staff are currently trying to figure out short and long-term solutions to protect pedestrians, but it hasn’t come without challenges as the roadway is also overseen by the Ministry of Transportation and TransLink.

“If there were a simple solution, it would have been found already,” he said. “We have to change the physical environment so that when people inevitably make mistakes in transportation areas, they don’t make fatal mistakes.”

New Westminster resident Phil Kehres walks the route daily to work and said he’d like to see the city act sooner rather than later.

“Why did it take a pedestrian death to get this moving, when they’ve known about this for a decade?” he asked.

Johnstone says council will be meeting this week to discuss its capital budget for the year and said there’s funding in the plan to address road safety issues on East Columbia Street and beyond.

“I want New Westminsterr to have the safest roads in the Lower Mainland. That’s my goal,” he said. Top Stories

Stay Connected