Pedestrian follies—feedback

After yesterday’s post endorsing shared responsibility for crosswalk safety. I expected an inbox full of passionate screeds from car culture critics. Instead, I heard from people who share my view.

From a reader in extreme rural Cape Breton:

I wholeheartedly agree that roadway and crosswalk safety is a shared responsibility, but I’d emphasize that this is an inclusive responsibility and include cyclists in the discussion.

Too often when in Halifax, I’ve been forced to re-brake at intersections due to a thoughtless pedestrian sauntering after-the-fact into the shared space without looking up from his/her phone. Further, though, the number of cyclists who switch lanes without warning, travel from roadway to sidewalk and back again, ride first against traffic and then with traffic is appalling.

I suggest that a suitable penalty upon conviction of the misdemeanor of “Distracted Walking” or “Senseless Use Of A Bicycle” is compulsory signing of an organ donor card.

A point I’ve not heard raised in this issue is the fact that HRM is the provincial magnet for health care, legislative action and sprawling holiday “celebration” (usually shopping). In its role of Maritime Magnet, HRM draws in drivers who possess a varying amount of experience with urban driving, particularly with regards to crosswalks and other “share-the-road” skills. Admittedly it’s the drivers’ responsibility to possess such skills, but I wonder just how many frequent pedestrians ever stop to considerthe urban-driving experience levels of the operators of the vehicles into whose potential path they’re about to venture.

A Halifax engineer writes:

I will observe that the existing provisions in the MVA, if enforced (always a big if) would suffice. Pedestrians are already obligated under the Act to take certain precautions that a walking-texting person is not.

Any new law would also require the same enforcement. And of course the problem with that is that there really is only selective enforcement. In my personal observation—and I stress that it is just my impression after 30 years in this city—enforcement tends to be focussed on youth, specifically those of colour or with skateboards.

For the record, I do not advocate new law, and I think the recently enacted $697.50 fine for jaywalking is grossly excessive. Also, Contrarian is pro-skateboard, and wishes we had the coordination to ride one.

A senior provincial official writes:

To your point, last night’s weather made it particularly difficult to pick out pedestrians. It was dark and rainy, the roads wet and shiny. The combination of these factors and oncoming vehicle headlights made it difficult to pick out the road line markings let alone pedestrians.

Twice, turning onto Main Street at Gordon in Dartmouth heading toward the circ, and later entering the Armdale Roundabout, I encountered pedestrians dressed completely in black, heads down, crossing the road oblivious to oncoming traffic. Both these intersections, particularly the roundabout, are dangerous and unpredictable at the best of times. Despite the fact that they were crossing the road properly, there were motorists that didn’t see them causing near misses.

But for chance, both could have been dead right last night.

A denizen of suburban Halifax recalled a familiar limerick:

Here lies the body of Henry Gray.
He died defending his right of way.
His way was right, his will was strong,
But he’s just as dead as if he was wrong.

Finally, disability rights Gus Reed activist picks up on my suggestion that improved crosswalk design could make a difference:

As you hint but do not say, crosswalk safety is a three-way bargain that includes motorists, pedestrians, and the Public Works Departments. “Heads Up” is no excuse for the lack of standards for intersections. Lighting, signals, markings, curb cuts, and other more subtle considerations go a long way to enhance safety.

There is actually a science to this, but it is largely ignored in Nova Scotia in favour of dangerous home-grown ideas

Take those highly touted but largely discredited fan-shaped corners so fashionable in Halifax. They provide no clue as to the intention of pedestrians, drivers easily go on them, they are diabolically difficult for wheelchairs.

Like so many aspects of the built environment, fan-shaped curb cuts seem like a wonderful concession to wheelchair users, except when viewed from the chair-users vantage. I asked Gus to explain why they don’t work:

Physics 1A: Casters always run at right angles to the slope. So the natural direction is into the middle of the intersection.

In Nova Scotia urban design has Darwinist roots.


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