Edmonton Comes to its Senses around Pedestrian Hi-Viz Campaign

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Yesterday I joined Edmontonians in criticizing a proposed defensive walking campaign, admonishing pedestrians to wear high-visibility colthing and to make eye contact with drivers. Here (for as long as it’s up) is the description of the proposed campaign, and here is how I was quoted in Clare Clancy’s report on the scheme in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal & Edmonton Sun:

Graham Larkin, executive director of Vision Zero Canada, which aims to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries, said cities are failing to implement effective strategies.

“The road safety approaches of cities in North America are a real mixed bag, with a lot of money and energy expended on measures that have had no clear reduction in death and serious injury,” he said in an email. “In that respect, we have a great deal to learn from a country like Sweden, which has a similar climate and government structure, but only half as many traffic deaths.”

[…] Larkin said “shared responsibility” campaigns tend to blur the distinction between victim and perpetrator.

“If a pedestrian or cyclist is hit by a driver who’s recklessly impaired or speeding or distracted in any way, then they’re the victim of a crime. And whoever may be at fault, vulnerable road users are bound to suffer the most,” he said. “When you’re driving a killing machine the level of responsibility is infinitely higher than if you’re mainly risking harm to yourself.”

Vision Zero Canada promotes other methods to reduce traffic collisions including road design, vehicle design and safe speeds.

“(We) only promote data-supported methods of saving lives, so there is no advocacy for defensive walking,” he said.

Criticism also came from other quarters, including city council hopeful Troy Pavlek, whose blog post critique led to coverage in Global News and by Edmonton Bicycle. As you can see from Clancy’s follow-up story in the Edmonton Journal, the proposed campaign has now been scrapped. Last Friday Edmonton Metro published a story on an existing pedestrian education campaign, this time aimed at preventing ‘jaywalking.’

Edmonton’s swift change of course is a small but decisive victory at a time when many Canadian cities (e.g. Toronto in June of this year, and Montreal in September) are declaring a commitment to Vision Zero, but are not consistently committing to the requisite principles and practices.

We should be grateful to the City of Edmonton for decisively nipping this campaign idea in the bud. I sincerely hope that Ottawa will follow suit by scrapping plans for an Eye To Eye campaign. Such behavioural change campaigns have been roundly criticized by experts, because they don’t lead to actual improvements in traffic safety. What does work is protection of vulnerable road users (i.e. pedestrians and cyclists) through failsafe infrastructure.

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Graham Larkin
Executive Director, Vision Zero Canada / Love 30 Canada


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