As the weather warms up, everyone is out walking, rolling, biking…or driving their vehicle.
Last year in Vancouver there were ten pedestrian fatalities, with four of those victims being crashed into by vehicles on the sidewalk. You can take a look at this heat map of driver crashes in Vancouver involving pedestrians from 2016 to 2020.
The top crash sites are all intersections that have residential populations, businesses, and wide streets with lots of through traffic.
In four years to 2020, there have been 26 fatalities or serious injuries to pedestrians at Main and Hastings, 20 at Kingsway and Victoria, 18 at Main Street and Terminal Avenue, 16 at Burrard and Davie and 15 at Abbott and Pender.
ICBC records show that from 2016 to 2020 there have been 143 pedestrians killed and 6,000 seriously injured by vehicle driver crashes in Metro Vancouver. Of those crashes, 96 percent happen at intersections.
Most of the victims are male, and 59 percent are fifty years and older. And in Vancouver last year where ten pedestrians died from vehicle driver crashes, four of the victims or 40 percent were on sidewalks. One was a toddler who died with her mother and father watching.
In partnership with police departments, ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) records sixty different contributing factors to pedestrian fatalities across the province, and you can view that graph here. In the last four years driver speed, driver distraction, and driver being impaired were the top three factors resulting in pedestrian deaths.
You would think in a province that also pays for health care for their residents that the Provincial Government would be motivated to slow vehicles in their cities, to get towards Vision Zero, where no deaths or serious injuries result from vehicle drivers. But no, even though the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) put forward a unanimous motion asking the Province to allow municipalities to lower road speeds to 30 km/h within municipal boundaries, there’s been platitudes and crickets in the response.
The Province has never said yes and deflects the request in bureaucratic gobblygook. Without Provincial authority, municipalities must do costly signage posting in designated “slower speed” areas, on every street, and clearly delineate those streets, do their own education, and hope for the best.
That shows the power of the vehicle lobby.
No amount of reflective materials will save pedestrians when they are crashed into on sidewalks. But lowering the speed of those driven vehicles can save them. A force of a collision which a vehicle driven at 50 km/h will kill 80% of pedestrians. A vehicle driven at 30 km/h will mean 85 percent of pedestrians will survive the impact.
The stopping distance for a vehicle driver travelling at 50 km/h is nearly double that of a vehicle driven at 30 km/h, doubling the reaction time for both the driver and the pedestrian. And from a sustainability viewpoint, a vehicle driven at 50 km/h requires 2.25 times the energy to maintain that speed compared to 30 km/h. Carbon emissions are reduced by 8 percent.
Add in the current vehicular driver fandom for SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) and there is the perfect recipe for continued pedestrian carnage in our cities. Sixty percent of North American vehicle purchases are for these car sales lot darlings and pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed by the raised hoods of these travelling family rooms that hit pedestrians in their vital organs. In fact the increase in SUV and truck purchases in North America are connected to a 46 percent rise in pedestrian deaths directly attributable to these larger vehicles on the road.
Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September 2019 a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men, causing the city to consider banning SUVs.
It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.
To March 7 2022 four pedestrians have died this year in Vancouver. We can look at road design, driver inattention, impairment, and driver speed.
Lowering driving speed in the city can save lives. What will it take for the Province to do the right thing?