On Saturday I watched a guy take a phone call on his cellphone. Nothing unusual about that but what was weird was he took the call while crossing a busy intersection in Burlington. As he took the call, he stopped in the middle of the intersection to talk. As he stood there a large truck made a fast right turn and just about ran him flat over.
So what can we take from this little true story? Human nature doesn’t change easily. You can’t do it by shaming, by punishment (although getting run over by a truck might leave an impression if you survive) or even by education alone.
In 112 days this summer in Toronto there have been almost 1,833 accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists. (Around the world an estimated 1.2-million people die in traffic accidents annually.)
This morning CBC radio ran an interview with a Swedish expert who talked about that country’s “Vision Zero” initiative to reduce all traffic fatalities to zero. The initiative is making a dramatic impact on road safety in Sweden.
Here in the GTA we’ve still got a patchwork system of bike lanes and traffic that is moving too fast through urban areas to be safe. On our rural roads the situation is even more dangerous with high speed and dangerous passing by overly aggressive drivers common as there is little enforcement of the speeding laws and little understanding of the rule to share the road.
In Sweden, one of their ideas that worked was the introduction of more roundabouts. What the roundabout does is allow traffic to flow through intersections but at a slower rate of speed. Any accident that does happen, happens at a survivable speed. Our Swedish expert this morning said that the rates of surviving a motorized vehicle crash involving a cyclist are dramatically higher if the impact speed is 30 kph or less and not 50 kph or higher.
Halton has been experimenting with roundabouts and they seem to be working rather well. I’ve cycled through several this summer and found them safe and bike friendly.
Here in the GTA we should reintroduce photo radar especially on our rural roads and see more (or should I say some) police enforcement of the one-meter law where passing vehicles must give one meter of space to the slower vehicle and if that one meter isn’t available then they don’t pass until it is safe to do so.
Sharing the road, especially with some of the younger aggressive drivers on our rural roads, is a new concept for some. We’ve had several traffic fatalities involving cyclists and motorists in Halton Region this summer and there are things that we can do to dramatically reduce and even eliminate these tragedies.