Nova Scotia

'We need to do more to make our crosswalks safer,' says Halifax-area advocate

A crosswalk safety advocate says the continued frequency of serious pedestrian-vehicle collisions in the Halifax Regional Municipality is proof more needs to be done to improve safety for all road users.

'It goes well beyond education and awareness,' says Norm Collins

Norm Collins, the president of the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia, has been an advocate of pedestrian safety for 10 years. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

A crosswalk safety advocate is calling for improvements to road safety infrastructure in Halifax.

A recent report from Halifax Regional Police showed more than 60 per cent of pedestrian-vehicle collisions reported between January and May 2019 happened in crosswalks.

In the same week the report was released, three separate collisions occurred: two people died, while the other remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Norm Collins, president of the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia, said that statistic has stayed relatively consistent in the 10 years he's been a crosswalk safety advocate.

"The fact is, two-thirds of the collisions are occurring in crosswalks," he said.

The Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia has put in flags at 178 crosswalks across HRM, usually in response to requests from residents. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

"The bottom line is that's just way too many. It just demonstrates that we need to do more to make our crosswalks safer."

To reduce the number of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians, the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia prints brochures and installs crosswalk safety flags. Collins said they're important initiatives, but it's only part of what's needed.

"It goes well beyond education and awareness campaigns, it goes to appropriate infrastructure," he said.

"We talk about it being a shared responsibility and that often becomes pedestrian and driver, but it's so much more. It's shared with government. Council needs to provide sufficient funding to improve the situation."

Const. Amy Edwards says it's hard to pinpoint one clear cause of the collisions that occur in crosswalks. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

Collins said despite years of awareness campaigns, the continued frequency of serious pedestrian-vehicle collisions is proof more needs to be done to improve safety for all road users.

While some road safety infrastructure can be expensive, such as installing lights, Collins said there are low-cost options that can make a big difference, such as rumble strips, all-way stop signs and lowering the speed limit.

"We need to find techniques to slow vehicles down," he said. "The world just seems to be in too much of a hurry."

"We all need to slow down, we all need to be more attentive. We all need to put the cellphones away and just be aware of each other and treat each other with more courtesy and respect."

Collins says many pedestrians don't know that it's illegal to start crossing once the countdown has started. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

District 11 Coun. Richard Zurawski said the city has a problem with speeding and a lack of road safety infrastructure.

He said a big part of the problem is the city's "car culture," which is reflected in certain parts of the city that are especially difficult for pedestrians to navigate safely, like Washmill Lake Drive and Dunbrack Street.

"I think everybody realizes it's a problem," said Zurawski. "When people get hurt, or injured, or lose their lives, it's absolutely unacceptable."

Zurawski said in the long-term, improving public transit and introducing a commuter or light-rail system would mean fewer cars on the road and potentially fewer collisions.

A brochure from the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia offers key points in pedestrian safety. Collins says most pedestrians don't know that any intersection is considered a crosswalk, regardless of whether it's marked. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

"So, what do we do in the short term? You have to slow traffic down," he said. "We have to start building bump-outs, using every tool in the toolkit to slow them down. And if it means hiring more traffic officers to ticket people, then I'm a big fan of that too."

Const. Amy Edwards, acting spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, said there are several reasons why collisions occur between vehicles and pedestrians.

"It's not people on cellphones causing collisions only," she said. "It's not distracted pedestrians only causing the collisions. It's kind of a collaboration that all contributes to it."

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