Concerns with King and University

On Tuesday of last week, a 21-year-old business student at Wilfrid Laurier University was rollerblading down University Avenue when he cut into the intersection at King Street and was severely struck by a red pick-up truck. Though he did break both his legs, Kyle Paraskevopoulos remains in hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

“I was flying down University Ave. I was on rollerblades; I was kind of on the road because I was going pretty fast, down the hill obviously,” explained Paraskevopoulos. He turned left onto King Street and was then stuck by the vehicle.

“I think the advanced green might have just ended by the time I turned left. And I think the truck was already going and I’m not sure, I don’t really remember any of this though,” he added.

According to Rod Curran, director of special constables at WLU, the student was at “fault” for the accident. “When you’re on rollerblades and if you cut across in front of three lanes of traffic in front of cars, you’re going to get seriously hurt,” said Curran. “It was very unfortunate; I guess he just wasn’t paying attention.”

He also noted that the student wasn’t wearing any protective equipment.
The intersection has become a point of concern for many at the university, as this is not the first time for a collision to occur. While sometimes incidents can happen out of the control of pedestrians or drivers, the university hopes that students are mindful of their surroundings, especially when it comes to traffic.

“Just being mindful that there are risks, that campus safety and community safety is a reality,” said Leanne Holland-Brown, the dean of students at Laurier. “I think sometimes students are very distracted and they’re busy and they have a lot on their mind.”

Holland-Brown noted that students have a tendency to be absorbed in their cell phones and other devices while walking around campus, which can become a safety hazard. “I was walking from the exit from FNCC to the mid-campus drive and no word of a lie, I counted a hundred students texting and walking. It’s an epidemic.”

Even though Curran doesn’t believe the intersection to be a huge point of concern at the moment, he still echoed Holland-Brown’s remarks by saying, “People nowadays just see the walk sign and they start walking. I’ve seen students go out there and not even look at the traffic.”

“I saw somebody last week, reading a book and walking,” he added.

The intersection at King and University has been brought up at recent “town and gown” committee meetings and there have been discussion around making it a “scramble intersection.”

Similarly to some intersections in downtown Toronto, a “scramble intersection” is where all four sides of traffic are stopped and any pedestrian from any side can cross the street simultaneously.

“There are pros and cons with an intersection like that but I hope that the dialogue about student safety continues at the next town and gown meeting,” continued Holland-Brown.

Another initiative proposed by the university is to create an overpass walkway from one side of University Avenue to the other. This will be in conjunction with the construction of the Global Innovation Exchange building that will replace St. Michael’s campus.

“The president [of Laurier] is concerned about the level of traffic. But it is quite busy, if you have two universities within four blocks of each other there is a lot of traffic,” Curran added.

As for Paraskevopoulos, he believes that students should be more aware, but drivers as well. “It’s pretty busy, they should be more careful, drivers too, obviously,” said Paraskevopoulos.

Paraskevopoulos also felt that the accident was a bit out of his control, “A little bit … I might have turned left after the advance green but I think the car still should have yielded or something.”

“I thought I had the advance,” he said.

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