Vancouver traffic-enforcement blitz seeks to curb pedestrian deaths VIVIAN LUK VANCOUVER— Globe and Mail Update Published Monday, Aug. 22, 2011
Vancouver Police, with $30,000 from the province, are launching a three-week traffic enforcement blitz aimed at halting a spike in pedestrian deaths.
The new enforcement drive will see the VPD target 10 intersections deemed to be most dangerous, though half of the pedestrian deaths were clustered near Hastings and Main streets. And although the nine pedestrian deaths so far this year are nearly double the count for all of 2010, overall traffic injuries are actually down – particularly in the policing district that includes the Downtown Eastside.
Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will all be targeted during the blitz. But drivers going through the Downtown Eastside now face an additional hurdle: a 30-kilometre-an-hour speed limit between Jackson and Abbott Streets that was implemented by the city over the weekend.
“When you look at the fact that we are barely just 50 per cent of the way through the calendar year, and already we are seeing fatalities of pedestrians that exceed what we’ve seen in recent years … that is something to be concerned about,” said MLA Colin Hansen, who spoke on behalf of Solicitor-General Shirley Bond on Monday.
Mr. Hansen said the perception that the intersection between East Hastings and Main Street is much more dangerous than other corridors such as Burrard Street, between Dunsmuir and Davie streets, and Broadway, is inaccurate. Yet four of the nine deaths this year occurred around East Hastings Street. Most of the fatalities occurred in the middle of the night.
In July, a pedestrian was struck on East Cordova Street just after midnight. A month before that, a 52-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman were killed within a day of each other while they were crossing East Hastings Street between 3 and 4 a.m. And in January, a 79-year-old man was struck by a car at Main Street and Keefer Street.
Marion Allaart, executive director of the Vancouver Area of Drug Users, said speed is one of the biggest contributing factors to pedestrian deaths in the Downtown Eastside.
“My experience today is that it’s usually pedestrians that [the police] are [ticketing] the most, which really needs to shift, especially in our neighbourhood,” she said. “There’s less onus on motorists and we’d just like that to be more equal.”
According to Inspector Ted Schinbein of the VPD traffic unit, both distracted drivers and pedestrians who were jaywalking or leaving the curb when it is not safe to do so, have been the predominant cause of pedestrian deaths.
“For that reason, we will be targeting all road users,” he said, adding that officers will also focus on areas where they’ve seen a trend or increase in traffic injuries or fatalities.
Motorists will be targeted for cellphone use, traffic-light infractions, failing to yield to pedestrians and stop-sign offences. Officers will also be watching for pedestrians who are stepping off the curb when it is not safe and jaywalking, as well as cyclists who are riding on the sidewalk or failing to stop at stop signs or traffic lights.
* * * * * Vancouver slashes speed limits after nine pedestrian deaths FRANCES BULA VANCOUVER—
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2011
With nine pedestrians killed already in Vancouver only halfway through the year, it wasn’t surprising that people started calling for the city to take action.
And take action it did on Tuesday. One of the city’s major commuter routes, Hastings Street, will have its speed limit reduced to a school-zone number of 30 kilometres an hour for six blocks through the Downtown Eastside, where three of those deaths occurred.
That move prompted applause from Downtown Eastside advocates who came out to council to ask specifically for that change, which they hope will help reduce the number and severity of the accidents near Main and Hastings.
“The Vancouver Coastal Health trauma team has identified that intersection as having the highest rate of injuries in the city,” said Medical Health Officer Patricia Daly, in an appearance at council to support the speed-reduction zone.
As well, the city, which has made it a priority to promote non-car ways of moving around the city, will spend $150,000 on an education program aimed at making both drivers and pedestrians more aware of being safe. A new advisory committee for pedestrians will be created. New signals with countdown clocks are being put in and other measures will be considered.
“We have to make sure that the city's a great city to walk in,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, as he voted for the measures.
The high number of deaths this year – double what the statistic was for the entire year last year – has attracted a lot of attention in a city that takes pride in the way it has transformed its downtown into a livable residential zone where thousands of people walk to work.
But that issue is just one that the city is moving on quickly, in what has become the traditional month for getting an extraordinary amount of city business done.
This year, however, is different, with an election fast approaching. For Vancouver council, already one of the most activist in recent memory, this July has become the month to drive through many of the big, ambitious policy documents that will set the stage for the fall election.
Besides the pedestrian safety report, July has also brought council’s comprehensive plan for becoming the world’s greenest city, a plan for tackling not just homelessness but also affordable housing, a plan for removing downtown viaducts that constitute a major commuter route in the city, and an analysis of the economic impact of downtown bike lanes and how to reduce it.
Mr. Robertson acknowledges frankly that the July reports are setting the stage for Vision Vancouver's election platform.
“These do set the direction for the next term and beyond,” said the mayor, in a brief break Tuesday between three sets of meetings that extended from 9:30 a.m. to near midnight.
“This is an overall framework for the action steps ahead.”
But the mayor's biggest critic, the woman running against him for his job, said the problem is that too much of what's being driven through is so vague and lacking in detail as to be meaningless.
The housing and homelessness report, says Non-Partisan Association Councillor Suzanne Anton, is muddled and, at points, incomprehensible.
“It's a demonstration of how things have been rushed through,” she said, eating a quick soup-and-sandwich lunch at her desk before starting the next meeting.
The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, she said, is meaningless. “They spent two years on that document and I don't know where it takes us. It's a whole bunch of complete unknowables.”
But Mr. Robertson said the plans, which range from creating a hub to showcase local green-tech companies to charging lower permit fees for those reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, have plenty of details. It will be enough for voters to get a sense of the direction that the city wants to move in, he believes.
In spite of the political fighting, however, one initiative on which the mayor and Ms. Anton agree is the one on pedestrian safety.
Ms. Anton said she doesn't see that report as having been rushed through too quickly. She voted against the idea of the 30-kilometre-an-hour trial in the Downtown Eastside until others who use the road heavily – trucks, taxis, limousines and commuters – can be consulted about the impacts. But she supported everything else.
Special to The Globe and Mail