A Saanich man concerned about speeding near the site of a collision that has left a young girl unresponsive became the object of attention himself when police arrived in front of his home in the Gordon Head neighbourhood.
In late 2017, a vehicle hit 11-year-old Leila Bui at the intersection of Ash Road and Torquay Road. Bui remains unresponsive. Her state has inspired neighbours including Gerry Tearoe to lobby for improvements. They include reducing the speed limit along Ash Road to 40 km/h from 50 km/h. Other possibilities include the introduction of a roundabout at the intersection where the collision happened.
Saanich Police, however, have also said they have received reports of individuals taking matters into their own hands by jumping out into traffic to slow down drivers.
“I don’t know who it is…but there are people who have been doing that, and who have been seen doing that,” said Sgt. Alan Kurzinski of Saanich Police. “That is why we are concerned. That is why we are here today.”
Wearing a yellow safety vest and a clipboard, Tearoe was tracking traffic. But his physical presence also had another purpose. “I’m trying to slow down traffic on this street,” he said. “I have not seen any police, any police, who are monitoring it. I’m a citizen of Gordon Head and I shouldn’t have to be out here doing this, to slow down the traffic,” he said.
He points to his clipboard. “These are all the ones I have slowed down, or are within what I would say reasonable speed,” he said. “Most of them I slow down by my presence, because they don’t know who I am. These are the [vehicles over the speed limit and who stayed over.” The first category takes up a large section of the paper, the second is smaller, but not insubstantial.
As he was describing his agenda, Kurzinski and Const. DJ Swanstrom, arrived. Kurzinski told Tearoe that Saanich Police had received complaints about his activities.
“We have had a concern about safety,” said Kurzinski.
Tearoe sounded puzzled. “In what way was I impacting my safety or anybody else’s safety?” he said.
“You are distracting drivers,” said Kurzinski. “That is what I’m told. I’m just here doing my job. I don’t make up these complaints.”
“Do you buy that?” asked Tearoe.
“I don’t need to buy anything,” replied Kurzinski. “I’m just responding to a citizen, who has complained. They have got concerns. So I’m just out here to identify you and make sure you are OK and you are safe and you are not doing anything wrong out here. And from the looks of it, I don’t think so.”
This exchange did not necessarily settle the issue. Tearoe’s wife Lesley Machan complained about what she considered was the selectiveness of police. “This gets more response than the traffic,” she said.
Kurzinski said police have monitored and enforced area traffic in the past through readers that police can control remotely.
“We’ve got 1,300 roads in Saanich, over 700 kilometres of roads, and we have complaints like this from all neighbourhoods, so we move them around on a weekly basis,” he said. “Usually, they stay up for a week, and then they go [elsewhere]. This has been a high profile issue, and that is why they have been back here more than once,” he said.
By this time, other neighbours had joined the conversation, which continued for another twenty minutes with considerable back-and-forth.
Kurzinski urged residents to report any serious traffic violations in the area, otherwise, their lobbying efforts with the municipality will fail. (Residents plan meet with Mayor Richard Atwell in the near future). He also said most drivers respect speed limits, adding some drivers will speed regardless. He also reminded residents police are taking action. “May be you don’t see us, but we are here enforcing [traffic rules].” h
He also reiterated concerns about reports about individuals, who have stepped into traffic to slow down drivers.
“Very, very, dangerous,” he said.
Tearoe, for his part, said in a letter interview with the Saanich News he has never jumped out into traffic, nor does he know anyone, who did.
“Nobody in the group would be that stupid,” added Machan. “We don’t have death wishes. That is why we want to change the road.”
Tearoe said the encounter with police was productive and that both sides left on good terms. “We had a good discussion.”