August 21, 2011, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
As reported in the Waterloo Region Record
Signalized intersections dangerous places for pedestrians, statistics show
WATERLOO REGION — Intersections with traffic signals appear to be dangerous places for pedestrians, according to regional traffic statistics.
Last year, 119 pedestrians were struck by vehicles on regional streets and roads and about 70 per cent of those were struck at signalized intersections.
And 75 per cent of the pedestrians hit by vehicles in signalized intersections had the right-of-way when crossing with the “walk” signal at an intersection.
The numbers are contained in the region’s annual collision report.
Bob Henderson, the region’s manager of transportation engineering, said traffic signals are installed to move vehicles through an intersection and not for pedestrian safety.
Henderson said pedestrians should take no comfort in crossing with traffic signals, as the number of pedestrians struck by vehicles usually quadruples after lights are installed.
“I tell most people to be very wary when they are crossing at those locations,” Henderson said.
That said, Waterloo Regional Police still say pedestrians should cross at signals, and they urge that more care is taken by motorists.
Const. Carol Grandy, who is stationed at the Children’s Safety Village, said that’s the message still going out to youngsters.
“We teach them to cross at an intersection with lights, or at least where streets are meeting,” Grandy said.
“I think pedestrians are educated and doing what they need to do. Unfortunately it is the drivers who are not doing what they are supposed to be doing — concentrating on what’s going on around them,” Grandy said.
Lisa Harmey, a local architect and pedestrian advocate, said the “walk” signals should be longer.
“I think it is the design of the intersections,” Harmey said. “It really is the design of them that is at fault.”
The numbers are very bad, she said. “I think it has to be safe to cross the road.”
Henderson said roundabouts are a safer design for pedestrians because they only have to deal with traffic moving in one direction when walking to the pedestrian island, and then traffic moving in the opposite direction when completing the crossing, Henderson said.
“A good countermeasure to address intersections with high pedestrian collision rates are roundabouts,” Henderson said.
“Although a lot of people don’t believe that, the facts support it,” Henderson said.
He did a study of 30 roundabouts in the province and found that the pedestrian collision rates were 40 per cent to 60 per cent lower in the roundabouts when compared to signalized intersections with similar volumes of traffic.
A lot of pedestrians are struck by vehicles at intersections because drivers are watching the lights or drivers are watching for other cars. As well, pedestrians are taking too much comfort in the signals instead of watching for cars, Henderson said.
The 2010 collision report lists two fatal collisions involving pedestrians, neither of which occurred at an intersection.
A 51-year-old woman in a wheelchair died after she was struck by a vehicle and killed on Victoria Street North on a stretch of roadway with no sidewalks. A 34-year-old, also disabled, was killed by a vehicle while travelling against traffic on a road in Wellesley Township.
Vehicles struck 142 cyclists last year as well. One cyclist was killed while riding in the bicycle lane on University Avenue when a vehicle struck him from behind.
The number of cyclists hit by vehicles was up 15 per cent when compared to the five-year average.
The number of cyclists hit riding in crosswalks against traffic was 58, an increase of 25 per cent.
“That is a trend in cycling that we are seeing — they are riding on the crosswalk the wrong way and then coming out into the intersection where motorists are not necessarily expecting them,” Henderson said.
Seven cyclists were struck by vehicles when riding against the flow of traffic.
“We are thinking about running an education campaign trying to target behaviours that will prevent some of these collisions,” Henderson said.
The number of cyclists struck by vehicles last year increased significantly from the previous year — to 142 in 2010 from 104 in 2009.
“It’s a terrible number, it is much more than in 2009,” said Tim Kenyon, who chairs Kitchener’s cycling advisory committee.
Education and training for cyclists breaking the rules is easy to solve, Kenyon said, but better cycling infrastructure is needed.
Segregated bicycle trails that bring cyclists back onto the roadway to go through signalized intersections are a bad idea, he said.
When cyclists have to ride through signalized intersections there should be bicycle boxes at the head of the line. Riders can move to the front of a line of vehicles at a red light, and wait in the bicycle box for the green. The cyclists are the first through the intersection, making them much more visible in front of the cars.
There is only one bicycle box in Waterloo Region. It is on Davenport Road in Waterloo.
2010 pedestrian collisions:
• 119 hit by vehicles, 84 of them at or near intersections.
• Two killed. One walking on road against traffic. Another crossing without right of way.
• 16 suffered major injuries. Nine crossing with right of way at signals.
• 56 suffered minor injuries; 26 were crossing with right of way at signals.
• 36 suffered minimal injuries; 20 were crossing with right of way at signals.
• The injury status of nine pedestrians hit by vehicles not known.