Comment 70796

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 05:49:02

Road and urban design, as well as motorist attitudes, clearly do affect pedestrian death and accident rates. To claim there is not a problem with the number of pedestrians killed and injured on Hamilton's streets, or that this is some sort of law of nature, is either to be in denial or uncaring.

For example, Paris, with a population of 2.2 million and sidewalks crammed with pedestrians had only 18 pedestrian deaths last year (no children). In fact, the figure of 2.2 million (more than four times Hamilton) underestimates the actual pedestrian traffic as during the day the population increases greatly as people come in from the suburbs (population total 10 million) to work. For example, 800 000 passengers get off or on at the Les Halles subway station alone each day.

Paris hasn't reduced the risk to zero, but the chances of a given pedestrian being killed there are minuscule compared to Hamilton.

What's the difference? It's mostly just common sense.

  1. Slow moving traffic: there is lots of traffic (especially delivery trucks), but it generally moves fairly slowly. If cars are moving slowly it is easier to avoid a pedestrian and it is less likely that a pedestrian will die if hit. This is simple physiology and physics!

  2. Attentive motorists. Motorists in Paris must be constantly on the lookout for obstacles of all kind. It is simply not possibly to ignore one's surroundings as one can do on most of Hamilton's major arteries. Motorists always make eye contact with pedestrians; in Hamilton many motorists often avoid eye contact with pedestrians, and sometimes seem to look right through them!

  3. Wide sidewalks with buffers (trees, bike lanes, bus lanes) make it more comfortable and safer to walk.

  4. Safety in numbers. The huge number of pedestrians mean motorists are used to stopping for pedestrians and watching out for them. I've not experience impatient motorists honking or revving their engines as they wait for pedestrians to cross as I've often seen in Hamilton.

  5. Lots of pedestrian crossings. One is never far from a pedestrian crossing, and both signalized and unsignalized crossings are common. The penalties for not stopping are severe, and all motorists are aware that they need to stop (even though they might not want to).

Finally, it is interesting that Parisians "jaywalk" far more than Hamiltonians and this doesn't lead to more pedestrian fatalities. In fact, the concept of jaywalking doesn't even exist there. Trying to blame pedestrian deaths on jaywalking is approaching the problem the wrong way, and definitely won't help reduce accident rates. Safety engineering is about making a system safe for real people, and that means taking into account the way real people behave!

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