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Shoelace express

Pedestrian safety should be an utmost priority

On average, more than one pedestrian has been hit by an automobile a day since the start of this year in Calgary alone.

In a city of a million people, especially with such a strong driving culture, pedestrian fatalities are a sad fact of life.

Indeed, between 2004 and 2014, the city reported 3,834 collisions involving a pedestrian, including 95 deaths, according to an article from February by the Calgary Herald.

However, in a March 21, city council meeting regarding Calgary’s risk management policies, Mayor Naheed Nenshi asked the question: has the city set itself up for failure?

“We never talk about pedestrian risks when we talk about building roads,” said Nenshi during the meeting.

Many are concerned that the city has overlooked those who commute on foot in favour of easing congestion on our roadways.

City councillor Druh Farrell was also present at the council meeting on March 21, where she gave an impassioned speech about the importance of pedestrian safety.

“We tend to focus on the rare and the esoteric rather than the commonplace and the real,” said Farrell.

Farrell commented that councillors have received regular briefings regarding the Zika virus, which has only infected one man to whom it posed no serious risk. However, there have not yet been any official briefings about the roughly 100 Calgarians who have been struck by automobiles this year.

“The reality is that people are dying.”

Tsukasa Arakaki, who has a mortgage brokering certificate and a degree in anthropology, said that he believes the city does not pay enough attention to factors such as visibility and the width of roads.

“Trying to walk anywhere in this city is a nightmare. As a pedestrian, you have to be so careful.”

Five years ago, while Arakaki was crossing the street, a car hit him. Today, he still hasn’t fully recovered.

“I mean, the driver was a senior citizen, so there’s that. But there were so many other factors at play. There are huge visibility problems, and cars are just going too fast. But, it’s all stuff that can be fixed,” said Arakaki.

Earlier this year, a city committee proposed that the speed limit in residential communities be reduced to 40 km/h, but were met with controversy. Many Calgarians balked at the price tag: $750,000 dollars to install signage, and an estimated $2.5 million annually in enforcement costs.

One does not have to travel very far, however, to see what effect this reduction might have. Currently, Airdrie’s residential speed limits are set to 30 km/h, and in 2003, the residential speed limits in Banff were reduced to 40 km/h.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, a pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of survival. That number drops to less than 50 per cent for cars travelling 50 km/h.

So, the question Calgary ultimately has to ask itself is this: what is the cost of a human life?

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