Sunday 24 July 2011

Making Streets Safe for Pedestrians

by Penny McKinlay

As a pedestrian, I am often nervous about crossing the street. There have recently been a number of fatal accidents involving pedestrians on 22nd Street, and the City of Saskatoon’s Traffic Safety Committee is proposing a two-kilometre barrier to prevent jaywalking. But is that the solution?

Smart Cities, Healthy Kids, a university research project, says that this will make it even more difficult to move from one neighbourhood to another.

They have compared the number of pedestrian crossings on several busy streets in Saskatoon. In an 18-block segment of 22nd Street, there are only 5 marked pedestrian crossings. Similar stretches of 8th Street and 20th Street have 9 to 14 crossings - these streets have far fewer pedestrian-vehicle collisions. (via The Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

Blaming the victim
In a recent case in the United States, Raquel Nelson, whose son was killed when the family crossed a busy highway in Atlanta, has been convicted of second-degree vehicular homicide for crossing a road elsewhere than at a crosswalk and reckless conduct. She faces up to three years in jail, a far harsher penalty than the driver, who admitted to taking alcohol and painkillers at the time of the accident and pleaded guilty to hit-and-run for the third time. He was released on probation after serving a 6-month sentence.

Raquel Nelson had just returned from a grocery shopping trip by public transit with three young children. When she got off the bus, the nearest traffic signal was over half a mile away while her apartment was directly across the street. Is it any wonder that she took the shortest possible route to her destination? (via When design kills: The criminalization of walking, Stop putting pedestrians to blame: The case of Raquel Nelson)

What we can do
Take a look at A Resident’s Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities published by the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Authority. It outlines ways to assess pedestrian safety and ways to address the problems.

Write a letter to the City of Saskatoon’s Traffic Safety Committee to inform them of your concerns about pedestrian safety.

Find out more about the Smart Cities Healthy Kids project.

Photo credit: Shelley McKinlay