Why Edmonton's streets are not for people / by Tim Querengesser

It's strange how we talk about walkers hit by motorists in Edmonton and avoid going into the lurid details.

So, instead of positive proclamations about making our city streets "for people," let's talk about the negative outcomes of when they're not. 

If you, or a senior, or your child, or your mom, are hit by a motorist while walking an Edmonton street, as I nearly was yesterday, and nearly am many days when I have the audacity to walk about my city, the following things will likely happen:

If the motorist is driving fast enough, which is likely given Edmonton's inner-city speed limits are either 50 and 60 km/hr in areas, rather than far more survivable 30 km/hr, your knees are going to be shattered.

The motorist's lower bumper will strike your knees first and, more than likely, injure them, often irreparably. So say goodbye to running and pain-free movement after being hit by a motorist.

But the worst part comes next.

As the vehicle continues moving, fast, after striking your knees, you'll now be falling down, like a bowling pin struck at its base. It's all about the centre of gravity, and since yours is high and your base is chopped away, you will fall, and likely strike the vehicle's hood or windshield as you do.

That's when, unfortunately, you'll be at high risk of suffering a head injury. 

In 2015, 12 people died in Edmonton while walking on its streets. In 2016, according to the most recent data, 10 people died, though the final numbers haven't been released. 

The fatality numbers are reported, rightfully, but the stories are often sanitized or glossed over. Only when the details emerge — drivers of buses dragging people for blocks, for instance, or the numbing picture of a girl's bike underneath a dump truck — do we absorb, if only for a second, the violence that occurs in each of these fatalities.

Less reported are the many more people who survive a collision but who are nonetheless left damaged, physically, mentally and spiritually. And less reported than that is the daily reality: Our city streets are not for people. 

This fact is made clear when you watch walkers run through Edmonton crosswalks. It's a common thing. They run, out of fear of being hit. What other city in Canada makes its cross-walkers run? 

It's also clear as you walk Jasper Avenue in Oliver. I routinely help older women using walkers cross busy intersections (this basically sees me stand and use my body as a pylon to block motorists as the older woman crosses) because the walk light is short — designed for someone able-bodied like me, not for them, even though there are several aging care facilities on the street. 

How does this happen? Transportation departments see walkers as far less important than motorists. 

That's hard to change. What isn't is how we talk about all this. Our streets will be for people when we start talking about what it looks like when they're not.

© Copyright 2017 Tim Querengesser. No reproductions without license. Image by author. Image depicts lack of sidewalks near 170 Street and Stony Plain Road.