Pedestrian Harassment

Pedestrian Safety? or Harassment? was originally Posted on June 18, 2009 by westsideaction

I heard on the CBC radio this morning that the City is starting a pedestrian safety campaign. I went to the City website. Their advice for pedestrian safety:

Cross at marked crosswalks or traffic lights, not in the middle of the block or between parked cars.
Remove headphones; put away cell phones or other electronic devices when crossing the street. Use your full attention so you’ll be able to see, hear and respond safely to what is happening on the roadway.
Make sure drivers see you before you cross.
Cross when traffic has come to a complete stop.
At a traffic light, cross at the beginning of a green light. Do not cross once the “Don’t Walk” signal begins to flash or once the light has turned yellow. Never cross on a red light.
Watch for traffic turning at intersections or entering and leaving driveways.
Wear bright or light-coloured clothing or reflective strips when walking in dusk or darkness.

Note that there is nothing for motorists to do; it seems pedestrian safety is 100% a pedestrian responsibility. So if you get run over … you know who’s fault it is!

Being a parent with young kids – now grown up – and a full time pedestrian (I never have owned a car) I think the City’s advice absolutely totally STINKS.

I always trained my children to cross in the middle of the block. It is way way safer. Traffic is generally moving in only two possible directions, at a predictable rate. Midblock, the road is likely the narrowest, either because of parked vehicles or because our fair City widens roads at the intersections and then wants pedestrians to be exposed to the maximum crossing distance!

And what are motorists doing at intersections? Let me describe the corner a few hundred feet from my house. Vehicles heading north on Preston reach Albert. These vehicles face long red lights while Albert vehicles have long long turn signal greens. Daily commuters know the pattern, so they zoom right-turn through the intersection. While turning right, the drivers’ heads are turned 90 degrees left as they approach the intersection, and about 120 degrees back over their left shoulder as they turn through the intersection. See a pedestrian or cyclist on the right side of the road? Ha! dream on!

And what does the city recommend a pedestrian do in this circumstance? Why “cross when traffic has come to a complete stop“. Except it never does stop, vehicles just roll through the right turn continually, based on car movements only. See the skeleton on the corner over there? That’s a pedestrian who waited for traffic to stop…

Years ago the city had big pedestrian crossing signals at some minor intersections: push the button, lights flashed, cars stopped … pedestrians walked. Except on Preston St a car with Quebec plates ran over a pedestrian and claimed that the orange flashing lights were french for “sidewalk all clear”. So the city removed all the flashing signals and replaced them with regular traffic lights. Now, you can push the button and in many cases wait…and wait…and wait…and wait. Some signals, like the ones at Primrose/Bronson, simply wont turn until a car arrives to justify the light turning. I have stood at that corner through 2 red light cycles at Somerset and Gloucester, watching the intersections north and south of Primrose, while my light wont change! And when it does eventually go green, Bronson motorists run the orange and usually the red too, each driver in his or her single-occupancy vehcile looking carefully at the intersection before running the light… they are looking for cars, which might enter the intersection and damage their own car … but pedestrians, ignore them!

For further illustration of this common event, recall the big power blackout a few years back in August. I walked home, observing vehicle to vehicle courtesy at almost every intersection where there might have been chaos. But at Bronson/Primrose, Elm/Preston, and the Otrain crossing at Bayview, which are all mainly-pedestrian signals rather than opposing-flows-of-traffic signals, motorists did not slow, did not look, they just zoomed through at full speed. Traffic planners tell me that signals are safer than flashing pedestrian crossings, but my experience is that motorists soon learn which signals are “real” (where another car might hit theirs) and which ones don’t count (soft pedestrians are safe to ignore).

There is one signal that is pedestrian activated that does work instantly.The one at Primrose/Booth. But again, motorists can readily see there is no crossing car traffic, so too many are reluctant to stop, they run the orange or red so they can get 40′ ahead and stop in the queue of lined up cars in the grid lock to hell (sorry, gridlock road to Gatineau).

Preston St is right now being narrowed to two traffic lanes as part of its reconstruction. Prior to 1959 the houses along the street were great family living: with front yards, huge elm and maple trees shading the street, curbside sidewalks. Then the City widened the street, removed all the greenspace, and installed a mini-sidewalk so close to the houses that for most of its length it is under the drip line of the front verandahs and in some places narrowed to less than 3′ width because of verandah posts. There never was enough traffic to justify the widening. Now we are spending millions of your water-bill dollars to narrow the street and install streetscaping, a most worthwhile expenditure in my estimation. But, the major intersections such as Carling and Albert, the City is insisting on installing very generous turn radii, which means the pedestrian crossing distance [remember to cross at intersections now, its safer!] is LONGER for a street that has just been narrowed! Why the generous turn radii? Because its “safer” for a 53′ tractor trailor to turn. And just where are these tractor trailers coming from? Are they removing comatose civil servants from the cubicle farms at Tunney’s Pasture?

So, to conclude my rant, I do not appreciate the City’s pedestrian program to force people to cross the street only at intersections. Indeed, I would love to see the actual legislation that forbids people from crossing the street. In fact, the City’s policy is contrary to common sense and their own reports that indicate pedestrian hazards increase with the length of the crossing. And the longest crossings are at intersections, not midblock.
So, City, spend your money on sidewalks, crosswalks, street narrowings, and not on advertising campaigns to blame the pedestrian.

And stop the stupid practice of locating bus stops at mid-block, or 100′s of feed further and further from those “safe intersections”.

5 thoughts on “Pedestrian Harassment

  1. Their Cycling Safety Campaign was exactly the same, except it had the added bonus of happening just after 5 people were mowed down following the City Rules, in the City approved bike lane. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of moving to some place like Portland, or Boulder.

  2. Bank and Wellington. Just TRY crossing on the west side of the intersection, especially in the southbound direction. Make sure your will is up to date and your life insurance paid up.

    And why, in this city with four decades of dusty planning reports about how important pedestrians are, are there not only so many intersections where pedestrians do not get a walk light, as of right, when traffic moving in the same direction has a green… but why is the city also ripping out signals which already give pedestrians this courtesy, and replacing them with signals where you do not get a walk light, ever, unless you ask for one (and the button actually works)? Bank and Fifth, Richmond at Loblaw’s, all of Montreal Road, and on and on it goes.

  3. Plus which, where are the winter pedestrian guidelines?
    I suppose I could write them for the city:

    Dear Pedestrians, good luck crossing anywhere safely in winter, with the sidewalks covered with ice, slush and snow, and snow banks heaped high. Might as well walk in the road!

    PS It is forbidden to walk in the road!

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