We can call it the “baby stroller effect”; when a mom pushing a stroller was killed by a car, it made the front page of all papers; much time in TV news was focused on it and everyone became concerned. Now pedestrian deaths are back on the forgotten pile.
Political candidates in the GTA, to both municipal council and for mayor, do not seem to have this on their minds, even though it affects everyone, young and old, rich and poor, urban or suburban -- all. What are they proposing to do about it? It is not about talking “war on cars,” it is about doing, creating cities for people.
We seem to justify pedestrians killed as a normal part of everyday city life in the 21st century; we blame it on the fact that he or she was “talking on the cellphone” or “listening to the i-Pod” or “probably jaywalking” or just “not paying attention.”
This common attitude might lower our concern and anxiety, but it is wrong. None of those actions justify getting killed! It is people like us, like our children and parents, our neighbours and friends, who are killed while they walk to their normal activities.
Everyday a Canadian is killed while walking (average last five years, StatsCan). Last year a pedestrian was injured by a car in Toronto every six hours (TO Police). There are more than twice as many pedestrians killed in Ontario as there are homicides by firearm.
Walking can and should be made safe for ALL. Period.
Walking is a mode of transportation. Even in the wealthiest and most sprawling neighbourhoods in the GTA more than one in three people do not drive: everyone under 17, 30 per cent of the over 60, and 15 per cent of the rest. In areas less affluent and/or denser, it can go above 75 per cent.
What are our political candidates saying about this? Who is the “champion of the pedestrians”? Who is willing to propose a one-line policy on the first day at work that “in this municipality pedestrians are first”? It would send a clear message to all stakeholders, municipal staff, developers, citizens, that everything that takes place in our communities should have pedestrians as a priority.
From the point of view of vulnerability according to modes of transportation, pedestrians are first, then cyclists, then transit users, and then car drivers and passengers. From the age point of view, children and older adults are most vulnerable, they are also the least likely to drive, which is why we need to create great cities for all (8-80 Cities).
But walking is not just about transportation; creating a great walkable community results in other benefits as a bonus: vibrant cities, healthier communities, great public places and happier residents.
Make sure that your politician makes a commitment to do whatever is necessary to make walking a normal part of everyday life, and to make it SAFE for ALL.