A boy wearing headphones is struck by a train, Duncan RCMP feel no need to inform

A young student puts on her headphones while waiting to cross the street.

Duncan area RCMP said they have no intent to educate the public after a boy wearing headphones was struck by a train, but an expert in sound awareness thinks they should.

“Something like that, [it’s] something that everybody knows,” constable Markus Luder said.

“It’s just like looking both ways when you’re crossing the crosswalk.”

The 14-year-old was hit by a Via train during daylight hours on Nov. 5, and was unable to hear the approaching train despite repeated blasts of its horn.

“To me, that is amazing,” Luder said. “That dayliner comes through here everyday, I know how loud that horn is.”

Duncan area RCMP said the incident should serve as a lesson to people who might fail to recognize the dangers of headphones and loud music.

“Anywhere around any kind of machinery, any time where your hearing is important, wear one ear bud, don’t wear two, so you know what’s going on,” Luder said.

Chantal Laroche is an expert in noise and the perception of warning sounds at the University of Ottawa. She said she felt police need to help raise awareness of these dangers.

“As audiologists we know that we have a lot of education to do, and it’s unfortunate that police forces don’t want to educate the kids,” Laroche said.

Laroche said she felt people have to be careful, but said she would take it a step further than the police warning to wear just one ear bud.

“It’s risky to wear these devices when you are outside and moving,” she said.

“For me, as an audiologist, I never recommend people to [use] their ipod or music players when they are walking or running.”

Laroche was less than surprised about the boy’s inability to hear the approaching train.

“It’s not the first time I [heard] that somebody [was] hit by a train wearing headphones,” Laroche said. “They have to be told, because people do not know about these risks.”

Laroche said that her worries extend beyond trains, and warned against using music devices in any situation where your attention may be needed.

“The hearing system is very specialized,” she said, speaking about the difference between the ability to detect sound and that of locating it.While most people realize they cannot locate a sound they don’t hear, Laroche said there are still dangers.

“It’s a mix of detection and localization,” she said. “If you just barely hear it … it will take you more time [to locate].”

College student Sheena Lacey, a 26-year-old studying market management, said she routinely uses ear bud headphones like those worn by the Duncan boy.

“I sometimes wonder why I have my headphones in and my music blaring all the time,” Lacey said. “It’s not safe.”

Lacey’s friend, 19-year-old student Patrick Vernier, agreed.

“They should definitely go around to the schools and talk to the kids,” Vernier said.

RCMP said they were unable to offer any updates on the boy’s condition at this time.

“I believe they have a very injured leg,” Luder said.

Vancouver laneway houses not proving an affordable option

Jason Oliver is the millwork shop leader for Smallworks, one of the biggest manufacturers of laneway houses in Vancouver.

City council’s decision to support laneway houses in Vancouver gives students more options when searching for accommodation, but prices still remain high in college neighbourhoods.

An October administrative report showed that as part of their affordable housing strategy, Vancouver City Council recognized laneway houses in 2009 as an “opportunity for adding to rental housing supply across the city.”

While affordability has been offered as one of the primary benefits of laneway houses, rental advertisements tell a different story. In the Langara College area, the cost per bedroom of these units currently averages over $1,060.

“My next door neighbours have a laneway house that’s on 21st,” said Tracey Greer, a 23-year-old history student at Langara. “They’re charging $1,200.”

Greer said she thinks many landlords feel they can get away with charging high rents in Vancouver due to the heavy demand for housing in the city.

“People will always pay, so [landlords] are going to charge a lot.”

Arts student Kylie Schlotter also said rental prices for the units are too high.

“They’re over-charging. It’s supposed to be more affordable,” she said.

The city council report detailing the first 100 laneway houses in the city estimated that the rental rates range between $1,000 and $2,100 for one and two bedroom units.

Laneway houses typically take the place of an alleyway garage on most average-sized properties.

Of the first 100 laneway houses built in the city, only five were the more affordable studio size units.

One of the biggest manufacturers of laneway houses in Vancouver is Smallworks, which has been pre-fabricating the houses for over five years.

Smallworks owner Jake Fry said that despite the novelty and high rental rates of laneway houses in Vancouver, the structures still have the potential to improve on the availability of low-income housing in the city.

“I think it will help out students and lots of people in making the city an affordable place,” he said. “[But] people coming to us are already going [for] a slightly higher-end unit, it’s not like they’re looking at affordable housing.”

Smallworks employees fabricate the door frame of a new laneway house

While companies like Smallworks tend to focus on building structures for families, Fry said the real potential for student housing rests with units being constructed alongside a new property.

“Those laneway homes that are going in with the principle structure, they actually don’t need the same cost recovery,” said Fry, who estimated that building a laneway rental property alongside a new home could reduce the overall cost by as much as 30 per cent.