Edmonton

Majority of Edmonton pedestrian collisions happen in marked crossings, stats show

City of Edmonton numbers show there were 257 injury or fatal collisions involving pedestrians in 2018.

Expert says more study needed to assess whether marked pedestrian crossings are safer

The Canadian Automobile Association says crosswalks give pedestrians a 'false sense of security.' (Warren Kay/CBC)

A walkability expert says more research is needed to figure out whether pedestrians are safer in marked crossings in Edmonton.

City of Edmonton numbers show there were 257 injury or fatal collisions involving pedestrians in 2018.

About 63 per cent of those happened in crosswalks or intersections when the pedestrian had the right of way. Close to 20 per cent happened when the pedestrian did not have the right of way, also known as jaywalking.

Lack of research

Rob Shields, University of Alberta sociology professor who specializes in architecture and urban planning, said although jaywalking laws are designed to protect people, the city's data from 2018 doesn't support the intention of the law.

"The shock is, if you follow the rules you're three times more likely of having something, which is certainly a significant accident," said Shields. "That's astounding because we've been brought up to believe that if we put our faith in the traffic system and in the traffic laws we'll be protected."

Shields is currently researching pedestrian safety and sidewalk use across Canada. A lack of research makes it difficult to interpret the numbers, he said, but the best gauge of whether jaywalking laws work is to compare with cities that do not use jaywalking laws.

Basically what we have is a well-engineered system, but it's all based on a false premise that drivers will obey the lights exactly, and that pedestrians will obey the rules exactly.- Rob Shields, walkability expert

"We don't see higher crashes or fatalities in those places. Instead, we see a more interactional style of driving," he said. "Basically what we have is a well-engineered system, but it's all based on a false premise that drivers will obey the lights exactly, and that pedestrians will obey the rules exactly."

Shields said drivers are at fault the majority of the time when pedestrians are hit in marked crossings.

Downtown construction affecting jaywalking tickets

Jaywalking tickets have decreased in Edmonton since 2016, according to the City of Edmonton.

But Langford Bawn, transit peace officer superintendent, said the majority of the infractions happened near the Stanley Milner Library across from Churchill Square, which has been closed for construction since December 2016.

"Construction within the square … caused summer festivals to relocate. Those factors have significantly reduced the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area," said Bawn in an email.

Jaywalking is an offence under Edmonton's Traffic Bylaw. Penalties for jaywalking can range from a verbal warning to a $250 fine.

The City of Edmonton's Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths by the year 2032.

Since council approved the initiative in 2015, pedestrian-related collisions have decreased by 21 per cent.

About the Author

Tanara McLean is a producer and journalist at CBC Edmonton. She grew up in Red Deer and has spent her entire career in Alberta, working in print, radio and television.

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