Once again, Hamilton Police Services are tackling pedestrian safety through enforcement rather than engineering-for-safety. According to a news release issued today, police officers in downtown Division 1 will target pedestrians failing to obey the Highway Traffic Act and Hamilton by-laws.
"The purpose of the Strategy," reads the announcement, "is to manage and minimize problems associated with pedestrian non-compliance." The enforcement strategy started on April 1 and will continue to December 1 with a "zero tolerance policy" for pedestrian disobedience.
The goal is to "reduce the number of HTA and City By-law infractions in the downtown intersections with a long term goal of reducing the number of traffic collisions, especially those involving pedestrians."
When a pedestrian is killed jaywalking across a downtown street, the police report highlights the jaywalking but not the fact that the nearest crossing is hundreds of metres away.
The police advise pedestrians to cross only at crosswalks but do not advise our traffic engineers to install more crosswalks. Consider that on Main Street East, there are no signalized crossings:
Between Walnut and Wellington, a distance of 350 metres;
Between Tisdale and Wentworth, a distance of 350 metres;
Between Sanford and Fairleigh, a distance of 300 metres;
Between Fairleigh and Sherman, a distance of 350 metres;
Between Sherman and Springer, a distance of 350 metres;
Between Springer and Gage, a distance of 500 metres - that's half a kilometre;
Between Gage and King, a distance of 500 metres (another half kilometre) - but there is a highway-style on-ramp from Main eastbound onto King heading southeast.
These are exactly the sorts of places where collisions resulting in pedestrian deaths take place: high-speed, multi-lane urban thoroughfares with no controlled crossings for hundreds of metres at a stretch.
Do the police honestly think the real problem here is insubordinate pedestrians? These are downtown city streets, not 400-series highways. Jaywalking should be the norm, not a dangerous infraction that must be punished.
Does anyone really think it's reasonable to make a pedestrian have to choose between: a) sprinting across a five-lane thoroughfare; and b) walking between a third and a half a kilometre out of the way, just to cross the street?
It's past time that our municipal public safety services start looking beyond a narrow focus on enforcement of the rules and consider the more fundamental role that street design and engineering plays in creating spaces that are either safe and accommodating or dangerous and hostile.
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