Monday, January 25, 2010

The pedestrian carnage

This year has started off taking an awful toll on pedestrians in the GTA. As of this evening, 14 pedestrian have died as a result of being struck by motor vehicles. The vehicles include cars, streetcars, buses and trucks.

Last week, The Toronto Star included a guest column:

which focused on the perils to pedestrians in crossing broader arterials in the suburbs.

As ill-luck would have it, the rash of fatalities has continued apace since the column appeared - and the deaths have all been on the non-suburban streets of Toronto.

The very morning the column appeared (Jan 20th) , a woman was struck and killed on Dufferin - just south of Eglinton. The woman was in the roadway south of the intersection - and obscured from oncoming traffic by the rise in the roadway.

On Friday, a man was killed at Broadview and Danforth by a turning dump truck.

Yesterday, a Woodbridge man was struck and killed by a TTC streetcar on Queen Street East.

Most recently, a woman was killed by a turning vehicle while crossing Davenport Road at Symington.

There is plenty of fault to around - and this blog is not going to ascribe any. However, let's look at why Toronto's urban - and supposedly pedestrian friendly streets - are the scene of so many deaths.

Darkness: One of the first things I noticed after moving to Toronto - now over a decade ago - is that the street-lighting is poor. On a residential street - such as where I live - even a single burned out bulb can make walking tricky. It's little better on main streets - where there is nothing to illuminate crosswalks anymore than other parts of the roadway.

Obstructions: Toronto seems to love to obscure the views of motorists and pedestrians at intersections. Garbage cans, transit shelters, and newspaper boxes often impede lines of sight.

Blase attitude: Yes, traffic is generally moving more slowly on the narrower streets. However, even at the slower speeds, a collision with a vehicle is often going to be deadly - especially if it's with a larger vehicle. It's harder to be blasé when crossing a busy arterial than say, Queen St.

The weather: It's been milder and less snowy than normal this time of year. This means more pedestrians. However, it's a dark time of year. Today, I left home in darkness, and returned in darkness.

My own pedestrian experience is mainly in the urban area. Here's what I do to stay safe:

1. When waiting to cross, I remain a few yards back from the street.

2. I'm very careful about turning traffic. If there is any doubt about a car's velocity or intentions, I stop and wait.

3. I'm careful to establish eye contact with drivers.

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