Thursday, February 19, 2015

Community News


A Thorny Issue

City moves to post more signs at intersections, Councillor Popove gets a poke at panhandlers

Staff/Voice photos


A sign at Five Corners indicates skateboarding is prohibited. Below, David Blain, Director of Planning and Engineering for the City of Chilliwack comments on his "terribly expensive" sign initiative.


ity of Chilliwack staff put forward the recommendation at the February 17 City Hall that Council approve the installation of signage to discourage panhandling at all major intersections.


As a result of a profound and absorbing interest from staff, and later from Council on the issue, the motion was passed unanimously.


“Currently, people are prohibited on any intersection from panhandling for public safety. So this particular intersection, the one that has caused the most concern over the past month has been the one on Luckakuck and Vedder, and I think it’s probably our highest traffic count at that particular intersection. There are other places in our community where people are permitted to do so under the Charter of Freedoms and Rights, but we really do have public safety as our number one objective,” said Mator Sharon Gaetz.


“It’s an intersection that the staff visits quite regularly. If there is signage there, it will deter people from standing at the intersection. Which seems to have done so at places like Costco in Abbotsford where the signage is quite clear, that at that particular area there is no panhandling permitted," commented Gaetz. "It also really does inform the public at this particular spot and that people are less likely to give to a panhandler, and yes, we can ask staff for that and we can ask the RCMP to give us stats too.”


Councillor Ken Popove suggested poking panhandlers with rose bushes and installing other physical deterrents was a good alternative if signs didn't work.


Popove was aversive in his comments towards panhandlers, whose safety could be endangered by things like rose bushes and other deterrents at a busy intersection.


“If we do need a sign, are there any rosebushes along that island there? If it makes it uncomfortable for them to stand there, or not able to stand there, and if they have to stand on the road and get clipped by a car, well then that’s unfortunate. But maybe that’s what we need rather than more signs that they could or could not adhere to,” commented Popove.



Councillor Ken Popove supported David Blaine's anti-panhandling sign recommendation.


“The intent, the signs are terribly expensive, so the intent of the signs is to put them out as the most cost-effective alternative. Certainly, the greening at that intersection has some issues from a maintenance point of view which makes it difficult for staff to access as well. So, if it’s felt that the signs are not adequate that we’ll come back with alternative arrangements,” said David Blain, Director of Planning and Engineering for the City of Chilliwack.


“I really don’t have a problem supporting the recommendation that is in the staff report. The signage will hopefully discourage, so we don’t have to take it to the next level (by adding thorn bushes),” said Councillor Lum.


Blain called the signs expensive in the explanation of his recommendation.


Adding more signs to an already busy intersection may also serve to distract drivers and therefore compromise safety in that regard. However, when asked about this, Blain was adamant in telling The Voice that he didn’t think there were any safety concerns with the addition of any new signage.


In Winnipeg, at Portage and Main, you cross under the intersection on foot and there are people barricades above with no foot traffic allowed. Certainly, that would be a better option than compromising a panhandlers safety by forcing them into the traffic things like thorny bushes.


According to Blain, the signs should be erected in about three weeks.



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