Protecting Pedestrians with Innovative Ideas

by John McKiggan

(By Mark Raftus)

Pedestrians will be pleased to hear there are new and innovative ideas emerging to make foot travel safer.

In three prior blog posts I have recommended increased vigilance on the part of both pedestrians and car drivers as the number one factor in reducing collisions and injury.

Good news in the battle against pedestrian-car collisions

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Many pedestrian-car collisions take place at intersections with crosswalks. Many of these intersections are controlled with signal lights. Toronto area columnist Lorraine Summerfield penned an article in April, 2015 in which she commented on pedestrians and cyclists needing to be aware of the dangers of vehicles turning on a red signal light. In this article she conveyed an alarming statistic – of 520 pedestrians hit by cars turning both left and right in 2012 in Toronto only 51 of those collisions involved cars deemed to have the right of way! That means in 469 collisions – 90% of the total collisions – the turning vehicle was deemed to be at fault!

She concludes that pedestrians are being careful while cars are not.

I do not have parallel statistics for Halifax. Although in this story reported by Metro News Halifax police statistics showed that 58% of pedestrian-vehicle collisions happened in crosswalks.

These statistics are alarming and tells me more needs to be done to increase vigilance on the part of car drivers whether at intersections controlled by lights or not.

So beyond current efforts at increased vigilance and ticket issuance what can be done to try to lessen the incidence of cars turning at intersections from striking pedestrians?

We now have innovative high tech and low tech ideas to assist meet this objective.

In a recent article CBC reported that HRM is set to test new crosswalk lights to reduce collisions. The article advises that based on a Calgary study, the new type of lights have led to increased yielding behaviour by motorists. The lights themselves are rectangular in shape with rapid-flash beacons. They will be tested this spring in HRM as part of a pilot project. They will be installed at four marked crosswalks in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford that don’t currently have traffic lights. The article advises that in other cities, the beacons have been installed just below the pedestrian crossing signs but Halifax wishes to prevent vandalism and avoid blinding drivers so they will modify the positioning of the flashing lights and they will be installed just above signs.

Hopefully this new type of crosswalk light will reduce the incidence of pedestrian-car collisions in Halifax as it has in Calgary.

pedestrian bulgeAnother innovative idea found in other Canadian cities is the use of pedestrian bulges. They are currently used in Vancouver and are commented upon in a further CBC article. How they work is the curb extends further into the road at intersections which in turn causes the car driver to turn his mind to avoiding the protruding curb and hence avoiding pedestrians. With this increased vigilance, collisions between pedestrians and cars decrease.

The article mentions Vancouver also uses raised crosswalks which makes drivers slow down as the car would bump going over them at higher speeds similar to the speed bump/ traffic calmer in use on several side streets in Halifax. Time will tell if pedestrian bulges and raised crosswalks make an appearance in Halifax but they do sound like useful ideas.

Hopefully, these new and innovative ideas will lead to a reduction in pedestrian-car collisions and help prevent injury to Halifax citizens.

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