Transferring Risk TO pedestrians is standard practice



This photo shows a utility truck doing some service work along Albert Street.

Note the concern for safety.

Bright flashing lights.

Safety Cones !

And note how well he pulled off the travel lane, snuggling his vehicle right up against the retaining wall on the outside of the walk.

This was so very thoughtful, not inconveniencing motorists at all.

But what about pedestrians? (and timid cyclists who use the walk here since crossing Albert is difficult/impossible, and the motor traffic lanes scarily fast with badly chewed up curb lanes full of bike-eating holes).

Are pedestrians supposed to walk around the vehicle by stepping into the vehicle lane? with their backs to the over-taking traffic? And pray and hope that motorists will slow down and not run them over?

Is it not ironic that the motorist, safely encased in two tons of steel and crash-proofing, has extensive risk abatement measures whilst walkers, unprotected, are steered to simply walk in the 50kmh lane?

So much of what we see in Ottawa today is risk abatement for motorists that is accomplished by transferring the risks to less-protected, more vulnerable users of public spaces, ie  pedestrians and cyclists.

Look at almost any intersection. The City locates the signal posts back from the curb line, for the safety of motorists. But then directs pedestrians to stand in the same spot where they deem it too dangerous to place a wooden or steel post. Along roads, recovery and “run off” safety zones are co-located with bike lanes and sidewalks, as if those spaces are never occupied.

It is unacceptable that motorist safety be enhanced by putting other members of the public at greater risk.

In the case of the service truck in the picture above, moments after this picture was taken a passing pedestrian relocated the cones to create a 5′ walkway along the side of the truck. Presumably motorists had to actually slow down and share the 1 1/2 lanes left. Novel concept.

6 thoughts on “Transferring Risk TO pedestrians is standard practice

  1. Good for that pedestrian; smart move!!

    It is also extremely difficult for individuals using walkers or wheelchairs to turn around, let alone “step” off the sidewalk to get around the blockage and then “step” back up onto the sidewalk. For people in scooters, it is impossible to perform either maneuver. In addition to “repair” vehicles, I frequently see sidewalks blocked by delivery trucks, and just random vehicles in Centretown where I live, and it’s most likely the same elsewhere in the City.

    It sure adds a lot of unnecessary stress & danger to many vulnerable individuals’ already stressful lives.

    Thank you for posting this and raising awareness.

  2. Amen to this Eric. I could not agree more. Just this week I was walking downtown along Slater near Elgin, and a City-contracted truck was parked on the sidewalk working on a drain or something. As in the example you gave, they had left no options at all, and had set out no cone-protected path, for the dozen or so pedestrians around me except to gingerly walk right into the path of Transitway buses.
    And I wondered: shouldn’t they need to have and display some sort of permit the way they would if they blocked a road? And if it’s a non-City crew, shouldn’t they have to pay for the intrusion on public space?
    If only citizens could issue tickets – with licence demerit points – for infractions like this, things would improve pretty quickly as word got around to the few-hundred or so crews employed by the City and/or major utilities.

  3. There are some pretty inconsiderate utilities crews out there. I had one guy from a Hydro crew threaten to dump a load of gravel in front of my car to block me in if I didn’t vacate my parking spot. But there’s no visitor parking in my area. Their solution was just use someone else’s spot.

    The root of the matter was they showed up 4 days early and the alternate parking arrangements Minto had made for their visit weren’t in place yet. They seemed pretty certain that they could just boot me out of my spot and any ticket or towing I subsequently received would just be my responsibility.

    On the flip side, the crew foreman was great. He apologized. He said there was no rush and they’d get it straightened out and not to worry about moving my car. Apparently the other guy was just on a power trip.

  4. The behaviour seems common in drivers. Often they do it to somehow comply with a “no parking” sign by parking over the sidewalk.

    I’m glad to hear someone relocated the pylons to accomodate the pedestrians.

  5. My husband encountered the same problem on Merivale the other day – utility truck parked on sidewalk with no thought for the pedestrian. I guess pedestrians are rare creatures. “Who walks on Merivale!?” Love the idea of moving cones! I can’t wait to put that in action, the next time I see this!

  6. This is the as much the fault of city by laws as it is of the contractor doing the illegal parking.
    The rule of the road is the ” pedestrian ” has the right of way ! And the sideway should never used for parking under any circumstances.
    Just another example of how the city priorities are misplaced!
    Bruce Faulkner candidate for ward 20.

Comments are closed.