Tragic death sparks questions about tour buses

Councillor wants road safety revisited

Victoria police investigate the scene of a fatal collision between a tour bus and a pedestrian on Humboldt Street.

Councillor wants road safety revisited

A fatal collision between a tour bus and a pedestrian has left Victorians wondering if downtown intersections and tour bus traffic are as safe as they should be.

A tour bus collided with a pedestrian crossing the intersection of Douglas at Humboldt, from the corner of Nootka Court to the corner of Brown’s Social House, on Monday, Aug. 13.

VicPD says the 27-year-old woman was walking in the crosswalk with a “walk” signal when the tour bus made a left-hand turn from Humboldt onto the main thoroughfare and collided into her. Paramedics pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The 44-year-old driver of the Horizons Coach Lines bus stopped immediately and is cooperating with investigators.

“Right now, it doesn’t appear the pedestrian did anything wrong,” says Cst. Michael Russell, VicPD spokesperson. “Our crash team is still investigating things like sightlines, and what the driver would and wouldn’t have seen. … It’s likely there will be a charge.”

The collision marks the third serious incident at the intersection in recent years. Only last month, on July 19, a cyclist was struck at Humboldt and Douglas. Police said he suffered no serious injuries, though his bicycle was severely damaged. The intersection was also the scene of another deadly collision with a tour bus 13 years ago, when a Saskatchewan couple was involved in a fatal hit-and-run on Feb. 18, 1999 — Michael Misanchuk, a 27-year-old man, died at the scene and his wife was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

City representatives said the city will not comment on the safety of the five-way intersection until all details of the recent collision have been made clear. However, Victoria City Coun. Shellie Gudgeon says it’s clearly time for the city to revisit the safety of this and other downtown crosswalks.

“With the volume of summer traffic, it’s critical we protect both pedestrians and drivers,” says Gudgeon, who also sits on the Tourism Victoria board of directors. “An idea I really like is getting ambassador crossing guards placed at these intersections, especially during the high tourist traffic of summer months.”

But after the highly publicized hit-and-run incident between a tour bus and horse-and-carriage earlier this month, some are questioning the role tour buses are playing in aggressive driving.

On Aug. 1, a bus struck a horse on its shoulder, causing the horse to jack-knife its carriage and dump its passengers before bolting into Chinatown. One female tourist was taken to the hospital with a suspected broken arm, and others were injured.

“There’s definitely too much traffic downtown already, and adding an element of danger like this [horse-and-carriages] is completely unnecessary,” says Dave Shishkoff of the Friends of Animals non-profit group, which has been advocating for the city to remove horses from the transportation mix. “We aren’t against tourism, but there just isn’t enough room for everyone.”

VicPD and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority sent a media plea out to motorists on Thursday, Aug. 9, to “Slow Down!” regarding cruise ship traffic — specifically, speeding taxis and buses — after a number of voiced concerns came from residents. The warning message came with increased traffic enforcement by VicPD, but Gudgeon isn’t ready to blame the buses yet. She says that, while the collision is devastating, “this is no time to point fingers.”

“Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen. We are a tourist town, and we need to be a welcoming city to that,” says Gudgeon. “Certainly, when you are a tourist, your mind can be elsewhere and it behooves pedestrians to pay attention, but, of course, it shouldn’t matter if you are a tourist or a resident — everyone should be kept safe in our streets.” M

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