The motorist king, the pedestrian in the pillory

This week, yet another tragedy unfolded.

A pedestrian caught, then died. It was in my city, in Saint-Hyacinthe.

She was my parents’ age, it could have been them; they often walk in this area.

A traffic light is located at this intersection, but it has been deactivated to improve traffic flow.

As if the fluidity of some had to take precedence over the safety of others.

For one it is a careless error, for the other it is fatal.

Worse still, this problem is not an isolated case, it is a major trend. For example, there is a 46% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the United States in the past nine years.

About 50% of pedestrian fatalities are people 65 and older. Almost double their demographic size.

Sandrine Cabana-Degani, director of Piétons Québec, points out that the trend in Quebec is the same.

The drastic increase in SUVs on our roads is not without effect; a collision with an SUV increases the risk of death by 3.4 times.

A sedan hurts, but an SUV kills.

do you want an example? This week, again, a two-year-old girl died in the Montreal area.

She got hit by an SUV.

“My child! My child! My child!” cried the mother.

The “Watch out for our kids, it could be yours” sign comes into its own; it could be yours.

Yet we can shape our cities more safely to reduce the risk of collisions.

  1. Tackle dangerous intersections;
  2. Protect cyclists;
  3. Promote public transport.

You see, options 2 and 3 reduce the risk of collision by reducing the risk at its source: the car.

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Indeed, as the REV demonstrates, more protected lanes means more cyclists and, therefore, fewer motorists. The proportion of cyclists on the REV lanes is multiplied by 7 in some places, and this, in just two years!

Unfortunately, when we talk about alternative, safer and low-carbon transportation methods, we are immediately bragged about being Montreal-centric.

However, this is false.

I personally cycled during my summers in Saint-Hyacinthe to go to work, despite the greater risk in certain places.

In fact, the benefits of cycling to work are so great that in the space of fifteen years, those who cycle to work reduce their risk of death by 40%, compared to the treatment group.

Oh yes, the sacrosanct winter. Here again, there are solutions.

The first is to set up lanes protected from roads – in a field or in the forest, for example, things that the region has in abundance. This is exactly what towns the size of Saint-Hyacinthe do in Finland, where children go to school by bike all year round and in safety, despite the snow.

They use the same technology as for cross-country ski trails, but for bicycles.

The second solution is to finance electric bikes which have bigger wheels and are therefore safer in winter. This is exactly what Prince Edward Island is doing by offering a $500 rebate to their buyers.

The solutions exist and lives are being lost. The time has come to question the absolute reign of the car and put safety and the environment first.

Hugo Cordeau, PhD student in economics at the University of Toronto

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