Comment 52955

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 13:50:22

The 8 minute time for walking 400m was a very rough estimate I did in my head while chatting to Ryan on the phone. I agree that an able-bodied adult walking briskly at 4.8km/h would cover the distance in about 5 minutes, but the elderly, disabled or the young would indeed take about 8 minutes or more (I know this from experience!). Unfortunately, most would simply avoid walking. Which is the whole problem: those who are confident and able bodied will simply dart across the unsignalized intersection (as the traffic engineers well know), while the young and elderly will simply not walk there. This is clearly not a fair or effective way to promote pedestrian safety.

In any case, even the 5 minute figure would clearly be an unacceptable delay for motorists. Imagine a motorist having to wait 5 minutes for a green light to cross an intersection, or having to make a 4km detour (assuming an average speed 10 times faster than walking). We would never put up with it! Why is my time so much less valuable when I step out of my car and onto the sidewalk?

I grew up in Vancouver, and I can confirm there are far more crosswalks (and respect for pedestrians) there. There are also, not surprisingly, far more pedestrians out walking. Even in a city as congested and full of aggressive drivers as Paris, motorists will screech to a halt when you step onto a sidewalk because the know the rules of the road and the penalties for hitting a pedestrian (even though they are highly annoyed at having to stop).

Another way of looking at fairness and safety is to consider our response to accidents. Even though Dundurn at Main and King are the number 1 and number 2 accident spots in the City, no one is suggesting that cars be banned from turning. However, pedestrians have been banned from crossing at several points there already, and was recently suggested as a solution by the traffic department for the remaining east side crossing of Main at Dundurn as well!

As I mentioned to Ryan, considering every road users time of equal value could help us rationally balance their competing interests. Remember that a crosswalk doesn't impede motorists unless someone wants to cross, so the argument about "insufficient numbers of pedestrians" is really moot. Of course, that only works if crosswalks are relatively cheap to install (paint and signs), which is why we have the problem we do in Hamilton.

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