People are putting themselves at risk travelling on Cranbrook Hill Road and some area residents are worried use of the notoriously steep and curvy road will lead to tragic consequences.
Despite steps the city took last fall to repave most of the worst sections of what was once dubbed Cranbrook Hole Road, problems persist. Rain washes gravel onto the new pavement, leaving fine pebbles on the sides of the road, which are especially hazardous to cyclists, and people who live in the area are noticing signs the base of the road is being undermined by water.
Margaret Brevik, who lives on Keung Road, which leads directly to Forests For The World, says the city needs to address safety issues on Cranbrook Hill Road and become more vigilant at maintaining it.
"Cranbrook Hill has many recreational bike riders on it and it's narrow and extremely dangerous when they're riding their bikes, because for me to go around them in my vehicle I have to know that it's clear and I'm not going to hit someone," said Brevik. "But with all the corners you can't see and then you end up with a traffic hazard."
Brevik said a possible solution would be to cut a few more switchbacks into the road to reduce its steepness, which is 12 per cent in some sections, and make the new road wider, with ditches that don't dump gravel onto the road during rainstorms.
"The whole hill has to be widened out to make room for cyclists, there has to be a better way," she said. "As taxpayers, we should be encourage cyclists because it's fitness and if we have fit people we'll spend less on health care.
"When it rains, it comes flowing down that hill [on the pavement]. They have to have proper ditches and proper removal of the water. They should be doing something, but I'm certain it's not in the budget."
The steep grade of the hill creates an engineering problem in that conventional crowning of the road surface to make the middle of the road higher than the sides is insufficient to drain water into the ditches. Heather Andreychuk, supervisor for the city's transportation and engineering department, said the original design of the road created slopes that allow water to flow from one side of the road to the other rather than draining outward from the middle of the road surface. To reduce those grades by adding more switchbacks would require a total redesign of some sections, at significant cost to city taxpayers.
"As the water drains, it pulls the gravel from the shoulder out and onto the road," Andreychuk said. "We did try to grade the shoulder towards the ditch, so that any runoff is not going into the asphalt.
"Typically, after a big rain event, the foreman will drive their area and identify any issues they need to attend to, and then send out a crew to attend to that. Whether it's a couple off guys with brooms or if they need a sweeper, depends on the degree of gravel that comes across."
Andreychuk said paving over the gravel shoulder would not be an adequate solution because it would lead to erosion of the outer asphalt and create dips that would eventually lead to road surface failure.
"You could pave right into the ditch, but that can create other issues," said Andreychuk. "Water takes the path of least resistance and it flows a lot faster on asphalt, so then you might get erosion in the gravel in the ditch."
The lower section of the road is scheduled for repaving next year. That can't come soon enough for Dorothy Richter, who lives on top of the hill at corner of Keung and Cranbrook Hill roads. Richter rides a motorcycle and says the city needs to work out a few glitches in its road design work. She said even the section of new pavement contractors completed last September is showing signs of wear.
"I don't think they did a great job, it's already got washboard on it," said Richter. "It's terrible after the rain, the sand and gravel comes out and washes down to the corners of the road and if you're on a motorcycle you have to be careful.
"People walk the hill and bike it, and it's not very wide. It's not ditched right. They're not putting enough pavement down and it's not going to hold up. They promote Forest For the World, but they don't maintain the road properly."
The driveway of Darcy Porsnuk's home near the bottom section of Cranbrook Hill Road meets the road on a curve below a steep section. In summer, his view of the road is obscured by foliage and in winter, the snowplows build up drifts that block his view of approaching traffic.
"It's dangerous, it's a very sharp corner and every time I cross the road I can't see up the hill and the corner by the water tower is also quite tight - people take that corner too fast," said Porsnuk. "The road is bad, but the makeup of the road is worse. Loose gravel on the road is dangerous and I feel sorry for cyclists, there's not a lot of room for error. People walk horses up here late at night and they can easily get hit.
"Sooner, rather than later, something going to happen."