I feel weird and kind of angry about this ad campaign in the metro and in bus shelters around town.
1367 pedestrians were hit last year, one poster advertises, above an image of man tangling with a car in mid-air.
50% of road deaths are pedestrians, another ad tells us, showing a woman’s body being tossed aside by a passing vehicle.
There something if not downright wrong, at least disturbingly politically incorrect about this campaign, which is signed by the City of Montreal, the police department and Quebec. Aren’t they supposed to be promoting active transportation rather than fear-mongering about the dangers of walking around the city? The small print reveals a blame-the-victim approach to pedestrian safety education. It reads: “Zero Accident: Traversez au bon endroit au bon moment” (Zero accidents: cross at the right place at the right time).
The problem with this campaign, which is directed at people who take transit rather than driving, is that these statistics aren’t useful to pedestrians. If police reports had found that a large proportion of pedestrian injuries and deaths occurred in instances where pedestrians were disobeying traffic rules, this would be useful content for an education campaign. But it’s no surprise that the human body is more vulnerable than a ton of fast-moving metal, and few will feel empowered by being made to contemplate this during their morning commute.
The good news is that pedestrian deaths and serious injuries have followed a decreasing trend since 2006. The total number of pedestrian deaths in 2009 was 18 out of a total of 33 deaths in traffic collisions. In contrast with the assumption that kids have the greatest risk of getting hit, two thirds of the victims were over 55 years old.
Engineering, Education and Enforcement
According to a police report (pdf), pedestrian safety is being approached with 3Es: education, engineering and enforcement.
I recently read about one case where pedestrian-friendly engineering has been forgone at the risk of pedestrian safety: Rather put up a traffic light, decrease the speed limit, or redesign a dangerous intersection located near Ludger-Duvernay school in St-Henri, police are removing the crossing-guard and asking children to make a detour on their way to school. According to this parent and blogger, the police attitude seems to be that if parents and students don’t accept the plan, it will be their own fault if someone gets hit.
As for enforcement, 11,900 tickets were given out to pedestrians in 2009 and three times that many were handed to drivers for disrespecting pedestrian right of way.