The 100 residents who signed a petition asking for a crosswalk at First Avenue and Battle Street are, no doubt, disappointed that City council isn’t in favour of the idea.
But councilors make some good points with respect to First Avenue, which is on a steep hill with good sight lines.
While crosswalks can be a valuable safety aid for pedestrians, they’re no guarantee. Many people have been injured or killed on Kamloops crosswalks.
In some countries, pedestrians purposely avoid crosswalks because they’re more dangerous than jaywalking. Here in the Tournament Capital it isn’t quite that bad, but it’s not great.
I watched in fascination just last week as a City of Kamloops bylaws van, no less, ignored a yellow light, then ignored the red light that followed, and drove through the crosswalk at the corner of Victoria Street and Fourth Avenue. The driver must have been in a hurry to get to the parking spot in front of the Plaza Hotel, because that’s where he pulled over.
If a City bylaws officer in a marked vehicle doesn’t give a crap about crosswalks and red lights, we’ve got a problem.
And if red traffic lights aren’t enough to stop a driver at a crosswalk, what good is a flashing yellow light going to do?
Those are the ones installed at quite a number of crosswalks around the city. They’re supposed to draw the driver’s attention to the fact there’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk and you’d better come to a stop.
But many pedestrians don’t even bother pushing the button that activates the light that is designed to keep them safe when they cross. On Westsyde Road, for example, people young and old either jaywalk or use the crosswalks without activating the flashers.
The lights were a City council compromise after residents got up in arms over a plan to narrow the road and slow down the traffic. Hundreds turned out to a public meeting in 2006 to protest, and council ditched the safety plan.
Why pedestrians feel so invulnerable as dozens of one-tonne vehicles speed towards them is something I haven’t yet figured out. Why drivers don’t bother paying attention to pedestrians is equally as mystifying, but the results are deadly.
Westsyde Road has seen its share of tragedies, but Tranquille Road, Fortune Drive, and others have been the scene of fatalities as well. One of the most terrible happened at the crosswalk at Tranquille Road and Popp Street in 2004 when a driver ran a red light, killing two teens.
An American study showed that crosswalks actually increase the danger to pedestrians on high-volume multi-lane roads. It identified as one of the most dangerous situations the “multiple-threat crash.”
We see it here every day. That’s when a motorist in one lane stops at a crosswalk for a pedestrian, and a motorist in the neighboring lane blows on through. The poor pedestrian doesn’t have a chance.
All kinds of things have been tried to make crosswalks safer: countdown timers, recorded messages telling the pedestrian when it’s safe, stop lines painted further away from the crosswalk, brighter lights that illuminate the whole crosswalk area, lights imbedded in the pavement, bigger signs.
Some of it helps, but people still get hit.
We could, I suppose, count our blessings. In Tokyo, there’s a five-lane-wide crosswalk. That’s the crosswalk, not the street. Up to 2,500 pedestrians cross it at a single light change.
We can paint crosswalks all over town and light them up like Christmas trees, but nothing will make them safer than smart driving and defensive walking.