Should pedestrian safety be a concern in Calgary?
By Nathan Woolridge, News Editor
As a student journalist, I am always reading the news to stay updated on things that are going on in Calgary. But, one day in particular some headlines circulating the city particularly stood out to me — and continue to be something on my mind.
The headlines I read were: “A pedestrian has died after being hit by a C-Train at Erlton Station in southeast Calgary …” from CBC. The man was found dead at the scene. From Global News, “A six-year-old girl has died after being struck by an LRT train Monday morning.” The young girl was in critical condition and died later from her injuries.
And this certainly isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last we see headlines like these. These two incidents occurred on the same day and both pedestrians were hit by Calgary Transit trains.
I decided to look at some numbers to see if this is something that happens frequently. I’ve been in the city for less than three years and I found the numbers of pedestrian-related collisions quite shocking.
Looking at the statistics
According to a 2016 report called Alberta Traffic Collision Statistics, “Pedestrian casualty collisions were more likely to occur in November.” This is a trend that seems to reoccur.
Since the beginning of the semester in September there have been several collisions involving pedestrians with some resulting in fatality, like the two casualties that occurred in October.
In 2017, the City of Calgary reported that “pedestrians injured in collision with car, pick-up truck or van” tallied a total of 488 — which seems high, but was the lowest since 2013. The average number of these collisions in that time span (2013-present) is 545 incidents that resulted in an Emergency Department visit.
That means there is at least one pedestrian-related incident every single day — and some days even more than that.
The city also reported 19 incidents that involved a “heavy transport vehicle or bus” in 2017. Last year was the third highest total of these injuries since 2013.
Besides Emergency Department visits, an additional 100 individuals were sent to the hospital as a result of being hit by a vehicle in 2017.
In 2014, the Calgary Herald reported that since its opening in 1981, there have been 43 accidental deaths caused by the LRT System in Calgary.
What the city is doing in response
Whether it be an incident related to a transport vehicle or a car, truck or van, these numbers are high and concerning. In 2016, the Calgary Herald also reported on the financial impacts of the issue: “The financial impact of life-altering pedestrian collisions and fatalities in Calgary [in 2010] could be $120 million each year.” The Herald obtained these figures from the city which fluctuate each year.
The City of Calgary does have an initiative to combat these high numbers of pedestrian collisions called Step Forward. This initiative was designed after citizen feedback in 2015 to “evaluate and measure pedestrian distraction,” “make LRT pedestrian crossings safer by installing gates like those behind City Hall” and a call for an education campaign for “pedestrians [to] make themselves more visible.”
In response to the feedback, the city’s Transportation Department released the Step Forward initiative in 2016. The plan highlighted actions to be completed in 2016 and through 2022 and beyond.
By 2018, the initiative highlights goals to: “Pilot new techniques to reduce pedestrian/vehicle conflicts at intersections,” increase the number of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons and create safer routes to schools.
In the initiative’s “Vision for 2025,” the city says, “For one thing, safety has been improved for those who walk – the most vulnerable users of our roads. Since we reduced the speed limit in residential areas, the number and severity of pedestrian-vehicle collisions has dropped.”
It isn’t clear if Step Forward is the reason, but pedestrian-related collisions seem to have decreased since previous years — with 2017 having the lowest number of Emergency Room visits in the last five years.
Hopefully one day these numbers are significantly lower and days like Oct. 15 are less frequent.