Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

John Ducker: It's time to focus on pedestrian safety

According to the B.C. coroner, the worst seasons for pedestrian fatalities are nearly upon us
web1_vka-dark-night
A pedestrian crosses the road at the corner of Fort and Cook streets in Victoria. As summer ends and fall begins, the worst months of the year for pedestrian fatalities are nearly upon us, writes John Ducker. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Last year, according to the B.C. coroner, 56 pedestrians died in collisions with vehicles on public roads. That’s around the average number for the past 10 years. Considering the numbers of vehicles and people moving around the province day to day, particularly in the lower mainland, I’m surprised those numbers aren’t higher.

That’s because there are so many close calls out there — not just the ones I see myself but the ones that people email me about every week.

I wrote last year about the jury being out on the effectiveness of pedestrian countdown signals. I vote No — get rid of them. People either don’t understand what they mean or are deliberately choosing to ignore them and I’m mostly sure it’s the latter.

The problem with my argument is that there is no compelling data that help us decide. The research and expert opinions around countdown signals are all over the map. In Toronto they did two large studies on it. One study showed there was a significant increase in pedestrian collisions, attributable to countdown signals. But the city’s examination of their own crash data showed no significant increases.

Despite the conflict in data, what I am sure about is that waiting for two light cycles, to make a right turn at a busy intersection, because people just keep walking out in front of me, regardless of what the light says, builds frustration in drivers. The problem might not occur right at that moment, but maybe a few blocks down the road, when some other frustration pops up.

The other vexation I hear regularly is about the invincible pedestrian. They don’t have to look or turn their heads even slightly before crossing the street. There’s a crosswalk there, so step out at any time. Nothing can happen.

I see that one everyday. Many are simply plugged in and tuned out. It would be nice to receive even the smallest acknowledgement that they are crossing a busy street and have checked their surroundings. Nope — straight out — not even the slightest glance at a two tonne vehicle heading right at them.

Finally, there’s the night-time ninja. That’s the person who walks along darkened residential streets, without sidewalks, and is literally dressed entirely in black. They even double down by walking with their backs to approaching cars. No flashlight. No reflective gear. No problem.

To be fair, it’s not all about the walkers. Too often drivers are moving too fast in crowded pedestrian filled streets. Too many drivers regularly pass other vehicles in front of them which have slowed down or made an unexplained stop — a recipe for disaster.

There’s also still plenty of drivers who fall into distraction by any number of means and by going there become a severe menace to the rest of us on the road.

According to the B.C. coroner, the worst seasons for pedestrian fatalities are nearly upon us. Increased hours of darkness and that yearly change in the clocks requires us to be more aware than ever for the sake of those 56 last year who went out for a walk and never returned.

Glove Box: Janet wrote in a couple of weeks ago frustrated about cyclist behaviour at four way stop signs. The problem is jumping the queue — passing cars that have stopped in line and are waiting their turn to go next. Often cyclists pass on the right, without signaling and many times without stopping, or at least even slowing down, zipping through the stop sign.

I touched on this awhile back — if there is no designated lane afforded for travel on the right hand side of cars on the roadway, you are “passing on the right”, which is an offence. Not to mention that it’s distracting for drivers trying to keep track of when to proceed at a four way stop intersection.

The law as written does leave a gap here, as there’s no regulatory direction on how cyclists must interact with vehicles at four way stops. As it sits today, a cyclist who has room to proceed on the right hand side of stopped or slowing cars must realize that if there’s no bike lane or other lane designated for travel, there is no legal permissibility to simply pass a line of cars waiting their turns at a stop sign and go first.

In the four way stop scenario it’s really important for cyclists to stop and gain eye contact with other drivers who, in my experience, will often wave a rider through when they have been courteous enough to acknowledge other drivers. Waiting your turn to proceed takes only a few seconds.

This is not legal advice. Bottom line: If there’s no lane for travel, you can’t pass on the right.

johntcdriving@gmail.com