Woman crossing road

Pedestrians Safety Blitz Needs More Targets

I woke up yesterday morning to news of a pedestrian safety blitz being conducted across the city of Toronto.

Youth graduates of the CAA School Safety patrollers and the Toronto Police Service Traffic Services were at six key intersections throughout downtown Toronto during the morning rush-hour. They were educating pedestrians on how to safely cross the street.

Edyta Zdancewicz, a CAA representative, told me the event was well received. "Many pedestrians went up to the kids and thanked them for the reminder of how to cross safely. We're all in a rush. Sometimes we forget."

It was a feel good story. So why did I have a bitter taste in my mouth?

Maybe it's because I was almost run-over Monday night. I was crossing the street on Dufferin, just north of Dupont. It's a spot with no signals or signs, where northbound cars speedily make left hand turns to avoid oncoming traffic. The driver (a stereotype really, in a screeching, black truck with the music blaring) saw me shake my head disapprovingly. I had the right of way and thought he was about to apologize. Instead, he leaned out of his vehicle and told me to learn to walk.

So, I woke up yesterday morning asking, what about the drivers? Maybe part of a pedestrian safety blitz is educating drivers that the road is not exclusively for cars.

The latest Ontario Road Safety Annual Report says pedestrian fatalities increased by 20 per cent, from 105 in 2005 to 126 in 2006. According to the same report, over half of the 4,729 pedestrians injured (not fatally) due to a collision were doing everything right.

To be fair, some car accidents involving pedestrians are the fault of pedestrians. Today's safety blitz reminded people to cross at the lights and not to jaywalk. A significant number of pedestrians injured on the road cross when it's not safe, in-between intersections, yet we're all pretty much guilty of doing this. Most of us jaywalk because the lights are too far. I remember having to cross four lanes of traffic, in-between two very distant intersections when I lived in the pedestrian unfriendly suburbs to get to my bus stop. It was bad urban planning.

I'm not trying to remove pedestrian responsibility, but maybe taking pedestrian safely seriously also involves expanding the spirit behind the Yonge and Dundas scramble crossing - the spirit of prioritizing pedestrians along urban arterial roads.

Photo by christopher.woo


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