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Martyn Williams: Over 55? Better not cross that street!

Windmill Road. Google Maps

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On Tuesday evening, news of yet another extremely serious pedestrian incident. At 7.45pm on a wet and windy evening, a 57 year old man was hit by a vehicle on the 300 block of Windmill Road, Dartmouth and left with life threatening injuries. There is one marked and two unmarked crosswalks across Windmill Road on this stretch, however at the time of writing the incident is still being investigated and the police have not confirmed if the victim was using a crosswalk.

Many pedestrians have raised issues with poor lighting at crosswalks, and there looks to be only one street light each at the wide Windmill/Courtney and Middle St/Windmill Rd crosswalks. This combined with a wide road and lack of traffic control and safety measures for pedestrians would make this a very treacherous crossing.  

In 2009, a local High school student created a campaign on facebook for safer crosswalks on Windmill Road after she experienced a hit and run incident. In the group’s description, she says:

“NOT ONE PERSON STOPS, I hold out my arm, flip them the bird, wave my hands, but they dont even glance my way. Why the hell is that? This has been going on forever. And IM SICK OF IT. Very recently I got hit (not severely injured) and I jumped out afterwards, and the guy kept driving! I was to in shock to get his liscense plate number, but needless to say, I was enraged.”

Other local residents also highlight the same issues on this road with speeding drivers and being unable to get drivers to stop when using the crosswalks. As is the case throughout our municipality, local residents are desperate for roads which are safe, and not used for speeding and aggressive driving. 

Wider, main routes like Windmill are usually immune to the kinds of changes which could slow traffic and make them safe for use by pedestrians including a road diet (reducing traffic lanes and/or road width) and crosswalks which are safer by design through measures such as pedestrian refuge islands. I recently met with Councillors Lorelei Nicholl and Tim Outhit to request changes to our traffic calming policy which would permit these changes to happen on our artery and collector roads.

The incident also underlines a very disturbing issue – it is mainly our older residents who are being struck and killed or seriously injured on our roads. Since January 2018, seven pedestrians killed in HRM aged 62, 60, 62, 57, 63, 69 and 66. A road construction worker was also hit and killed at the beginning of 2018,  reported to be in his 50’s.

Our streets continue to be terrifying places for our most vulnerable road users, as has been the case for some time – long term incident statistics released by Transportation Infrastructure Renewal for HRM reveal a total of 34 pedestrian fatalities on our roads since 2007.  

During public consultations on road safety in 2017, we were promised a Countermeasures and Action Plan. This hasn’t happened – instead we have a HRM Road Safety Steering Committee and a road safety “framework” which includes no safety countermeasures and has no allocated budget.  

Councillors have just reviewed our priority outcomes, which include pedestrian safety. However nothing substantial is being done to assess the issues and make safety happen. To sum up using a Mahatma Gandhi quote: “Action expresses priorities” . Without meaningful action, however much we say something is a priority, in fact it is not.

Without funding and a plan which sets out what we are doing, where, when and why, we have little hope of addressing the issues we have HRM-wide with unsafe roads and reducing incidents. HRM needs to step up to the task of putting vulnerable road users first; giving basic safety and accessibility to the people who need it the most, and who are doing the most to effect much needed transportation diversity.   

If you walk, cycle or use a wheelchair and are affected by road safety issues, please join HRM Safe Streets for Everyone. If your local crosswalk needs a crosswalk flag, please contact the Crosswalk Safety Society. Please remember to report issues affecting your safety to our municipal authorities using the 311 service.

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