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Opinion: Blame drivers for Burnaby’s new ‘traffic chaos’ spot - not the city

The city has helped create new patio space for businesses but not everyone is happy about it

All I wanted to do was eat my ice cream in peace.

Well, as much peace as you can have as vehicles roll by. I was sitting in the new patio space out front of Glenburn Soda Fountain at Hastings and Gilmore Wednesday afternoon, slurping up their decadent Canadian Mint concoction, when my blissful moment kept getting interrupted by honking horns.

Slurp. Honk. Slurp. Honk. Slurp. Honk.

I couldn’t decide if it was brain freeze from eating ice cream too fast or all the honking horns that were making my head hurt.

Then came the chef’s kiss moment – one driver honked and then shook his fist at another driver.

Classic rush-hour mania. So classy.

I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. I’ve been receiving a bunch of messages from Burnaby residents upset about what’s been going around Hastings and Gilmore as the city made road changes to create patio space on the east and west sides of Gilmore.

The City of Burnaby created a program called "Active Sidewalks, Open Businesses," which is aimed at helping businesses that have not been able to operate fully due to the pandemic by creating more outdoor space.

On the Burnaby Heights Merchants Association Facebook page, a recent post says work was completed on Hastings Street to add more room outdoors for eating establishments. This included putting in cement barricades that took away parking spots as well as part of the HOV lanes that are open in the mornings and afternoon.

What happens is drivers in some lanes either have to switch lanes or make an abrupt shift as the lane moves over. 

"There will be some hiccups along the way, and we ask for the public's patience as the City (and the merchants) figure out how to make this work with the least disruption possible," the post reads. 

The problem is some people can’t accept “hiccups” and have to get angry about the road changes.

“The City’s Active Sidewalks, Open Businesses program to create outdoor dining space has caused traffic chaos on Hastings near Gilmore,” wrote one resident. “I’m surprised there are not more complaints or serious accidents from the change in traffic pattern. Every time I drive through, there are very close calls of drivers not paying attention to the abrupt angled lanes. I feel for the businesses on Hastings but the city could have done a better job on redesigning the roads.”

But that’s the key phrase to remember – “drivers not paying attention.”

I’ve driven this stretch multiple times since the changes were implemented and haven’t had any problems.

Why? Because I pay attention when I drive. If you do that, then there isn’t a problem.  

As you can see from the photo above, there are giant orange signs letting drivers know which direction they have to go.

Look, the City of Burnaby has made some bad road decisions before but this isn’t one of them so let’s all just chill out.

- With additional reporting by Jess Balzer, Burnaby NOW

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.