Opinion: This is Burnaby's scariest left turn. Maybe avoid it

Chris Campbell

I kicked off my Valentine’s Day by watching drivers do things that I did not love.

A tip from a NOW reader I will refer to as Dhillon reminded me of a scary intersection I have been watching since I was a kid growing up in Burnaby Heights.

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It’s Willingdon Avenue and Pender Street – a place where common sense and self-preservation goes to die.

Pender is a notorious ratrunner route that runs parallel with Hastings Street. These drivers speed east and west on Pender thinking they are saving time from being on Hastings during rush hour.

That might be true for some stretches, but when they hit Willingdon – a really busy road – they get stuck trying to cross.

This leads to some really sketchy decisions.

burnaby willingdon pender
The driver on the right is trying to turn left from Pender Street heading north on Willingdon Avenue, but has to negotiate the drivers racing across Willingdon in Burnaby. Chris Campbell

I checked this intersection out on Friday at 8:20 a.m. and, damn, I saw some stuff that turned me whiter than I already am.

First, there are the drivers trying to cross Willingdon, which has a high volume of traffic going north and south. As you can see from the photos, ratrunners are lined up heading west in the morning. They wait and wait and wait, inching forward, looking for a chance to cross.

Then they hit the gas and race across the intersection. Meanwhile, pedestrians are trying to cross Pender. I saw several pedestrians trying to dodge the ratrunners racing across when they see a gap in traffic. In just 10 minutes, I witnessed several near-misses. The problem is that the drivers crossing Willingdon aren't looking for pedestrians, they are looking for a gap in the traffic.

It’s a gong show.

A second issue is drivers on both sides of Pender trying to turn left. Those drivers have to avoid drivers on Willingdon and those who are trying to cross on Pender. It could be Burnaby’s scariest left turn. A sign says it’s not allowed from 3-6 p.m.

“I’m amazed no one has been hit here yet,” said Dhillon. “It needs lights.”

I can’t see lights ever being added at this intersection because it’s only one block from Hastings and that would back up traffic heading south on Willingdon right into the Hastings intersection.

If the city was going to do anything, it could erect a barrier on both sides of Pender to force drivers into turning right onto Willingdon.

left turn willingdon
A driver attempts to turn left from Pender onto Willingdon in Burnaby.

I know drivers will set their hair on fire over this, but this situation of drivers trying to speed across Willingdon or turn left is just so dangerous. I can’t imagine that there haven’t been crashes there before over the years.

Of course, if the city did block drivers at this intersection, I’m sure drivers would just go down to a different street to cut across Willingdon.

I just don’t really see the time savings being worth the risk. And I’m not even sure how much time people save. I drove west along Hastings at 8 a.m. to get to this intersection and, sure, it was busy, but it didn’t take that long.

Perhaps drivers should just stay on the main road and leave these quiet side streets alone.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.




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