On February 7 the City of Vancouver, along with partners ICBC, the Vancouver Police Department, and Preventable, launched a “safety awareness campaign” targeting some activities that they call “common yet inconsiderate, risky and illegal behaviours that can cause serious harm to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”
The People are Fragile campaign highlights three specific activities (emphases mine):
- Cyclists running stop signs
- Motorists failing to yield to pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks
These activities will be highlighted through ads in bus shelters, at transit hubs, and on buses. There is also some “graffiti” painted on sidewalks in pedestrian-heavy areas of the downtown core. One, near Burrard and Georgia, says “My meeting is in less than 10 minutes. I need to hurry across the street.” It is painted on the sidewalk, but then follows the path of an imagined jaywalker, angling towards the road with “street” splattered across the bus lane.
Other than the ads and graffiti, we can expect increased VPD enforcement, focused on these behaviours.
Although the campaign is careful to highlight harm to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, it is clear that pedestrian fatalities are the actual target. The CoV press release presents statistics on pedestrian fatalities over the past 5 years, showing that many more pedestrians have been killed on the roads in that period (61) than cyclists (5).
From my point of view as a cyclist, the targeted behaviours seem strange. The Vancouver Sun’s headline proclaimed “Pedestrians, cyclists focus of safety campaign”. I understand that an effective campaign has to pick a small number of salient points, but the clear problem is motorist and pedestrian behaviour when it comes to pedestrian deaths. The CoV press release shows that of 61 pedestrian deaths in 2006-2011, 13 were due to jaywalking, 21 were due to drivers not yielding, and the other 27 were “pedestrian and driver error, confusion and inattention, and poor weather”. The release doesn’t mention the one pedestrian who was struck by a cyclist and later died. The pedestrian had stepped off the sidewalk mid-block, presumably to jaywalk. The statistics also focus on deaths, but I’d be much more interested to know about the injury statistics.
With all this in mind, I don’t see how “cyclists running stop signs” is a targeted behaviour but “vehicles running stop signs” isn’t. Why is “motorists failing to yield to pedestrians” a focus but not “motorists failing to yield” (to pedestrians, cyclists, other motorists)? Or how about simply “vehicles failing to yield,” which emphasizes the message that bicycles are vehicles too and must yield to pedestrians in the same way that motor vehicles must. And what about “excessive speed”? Doesn’t that seem to be the root cause of many injuries and deaths on our roads?
I’m not in the least dismissing the fact that some cyclists engage in behaviour that is risky to themselves and others. And I’m all for increased enforcement of traffic laws. But while I applaud the effort to reduce pedestrian deaths, I wonder if this campaign is effectively focused on the most dangerous behaviours.
What do you think about this campaign? Will it be effective? Have you seen increased enforcement on the three target behaviours?
Last modified: February 13, 2012