THE BRUTAL pedestrian deaths by vehicle in Toronto last week are sobering. So many dead in one act is unprecedented and hard to fathom.
Hopefully, the event won’t be repeated any time soon. But it raises awareness of how vulnerable pedestrians are.
Pedestrians are some of the most at risk road users. One in five people killed in a car crash is a pedestrian. Thinking of the volume of automobile traffic compared to pedestrians, the risk of being killed as a pedestrian is astronomical compared to being killed when in a vehicle.
In British Columbia, on average 61 pedestrians are killed by vehicles per year. Compare that to motorcyclists, where on average 32 are killed each year.
Here in Kamloops, the highest numbers of pedestrians were hit by vehicles in the downtown area and Tranquille market areas, followed by Westsyde Road and near the university. It is a good thing that Landsdowne Street is currently being upgraded, as multiple pedestrians have been hit by vehicles all along that street.
Between a pedestrian and vehicle, the pedestrian almost always loses.
The tragedy in Toronto has many people asking for more safeguards for pedestrians to guard against deliberate acts. But safeguards would be well spent to safeguard pedestrians every day.
One area in Kamloops needs new attention.
One in four pedestrians injured in a car crash are 16 to 25 years old. This is particularly concerning here in Kamloops where 12,000 university students go to TRU. Every day, there is a dangerous dance between vehicles and pedestrians on the roads surrounding Thompson Rivers University as students and others try to cross at crosswalks at McGill, Summit and other roads.
More people are walking to campus, both because of increased amounts of housing near campus, and because they want to avoid more expensive parking rates. At the same time, there is more and more traffic on the roads around the campus every year.
The McGill and Summit corridors are designed for volume and speed, which makes pedestrians even more vulnerable.
It’s time for the City of Kamloops to improve pedestrian infrastructure around TRU to improve pedestrian safety.
There are many ways pedestrians can be made safer.
First, in pedestrian heavy areas, speeds of vehicles can be reduced.
Second, walk lights time periods for crossing can be increased.
Third, raised medians islands in the middle of McGill and Summit can be added to give pedestrians a safe refuge.
Crosswalk lighting can be improved. The City of Kamloops has done a lot to improve crosswalk lighting around the City, but it is time to make further improvements around the university.
Around TRU, and other intersections, there are a lot of advance green lights. Even when the advance green is done, cars speed through the intersection, making people in the crosswalks vulnerable. Rather than cars, pedestrians can be given a head start at traffic lights.
Be Dutch, and install traffic circles. They make traffic go smoother, but slower. Think of the possibilities at the University entrances.
Mixing pedestrians with chip trucks, semis, buses, emergency vehicles and thousands of vehicles is a recipe for disaster. But that happens every morning and evening at Summit and McGill. Safer pedestrian routes are needed. The City of Kamloops should follow through on its plan to build a pedestrian flyover from College Heights to TRU.
The grief of Toronto will take a long time to heal. Justice will be served. But what should also be served is a recommitment across the country and here in Kamloops, to protect pedestrians, day in and day out.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.