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Designing a safer street for pedestrians

With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have become a fact of life for Canadians. But our reliance on them comes at a cost. Over the past 50 years nearly 200,000 Canadians have died in traffic accidents — more than were killed in both world wars combined. In addition, despite vastly improved safety measures automobile accidents continue to be a major cause of death of younger Canadians. CBC Archives takes a look at the long, slow road to improved traffic safety.

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It's one thing to get in an accident with another car, but when you're on foot getting hit can prove fatal. In Canada, an average of one pedestrian is killed by a car every day and thousands more are injured annually. In this clip, CBC reporter Hana Gartner talks with survivors of pedestrian accidents, and travels to one of the world's most traffic-clogged cities to see what can be done to curb the killings. 
• In 2001, more than 330 people were killed by cars or trucks while walking on Canada's streets and sidewalks. Another 13,475 suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to brain damage.

• With little in the way of protection, pedestrians are particularly vulnerable in the event of a collision. In 2001, pedestrians accounted for 85 percent of all non-occupant traffic fatalities in North America, while cyclists accounted for just over 10 per cent and skateboarders and in-line skaters made up two per cent.

• According to traffic figures in the United States and Canada, children under the age of nine and seniors over the age of 65 are especially vulnerable, making up nearly two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths.

• According to Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas at non-intersection locations and under normal weather conditions.

• North America's first recorded automobile death occurred on Sept. 14, 1899, after a real estate developer named Henry Bliss got off a streetcar in Manhattan and was struck by a car. The car's driver, Arthur Smith, was arrested and held on $1,000 bail.

• As of 2001, an average of 346 people died in New York state as a result of pedestrian traffic collisions. More than 175 of those deaths occurred in New York City.

• Pedestrian advocates argue that city centres have increasingly been tailored to accommodate automobile traffic, leaving those walking on sidewalks and streets at risk. Traffic consultants, like the one seen in this clip, have suggested radical redesigns of streets and intersections in order to better protect citizens.

• Consultant John Caney has urged cities in the United States to eliminate rounded corners at intersections, which he says makes it easier for traffic flow but are much more dangerous for pedestrians.

• So-called "corner bulging" has been adopted by certain cities, like Vancouver, B.C., in an effort to reduce the threat to those on foot.

• In Vancouver, where up to 60 per cent of all traffic fatalities involve pedestrians, civic officials have implemented a safety blitz to reduce deaths. A 2003 campaign zeroed in on drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians and cracked down on jaywalkers.

• Transport Canada reports that such measures, combined with pedestrian education programs, have helped lower the number of fatalities by more than 24 per cent since 1995.
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: April 16, 1999
Guest(s): John Caney, Evelyn Cansel, Charles Cominov, Brian Lynch
Host: Brian Stewart
Reporter: Hana Gartner
Duration: 15:48

Last updated: November 19, 2014

Page consulted on November 19, 2014

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