A week in December saw 6 pedestrians run down by cars, 5 of which were taxis.
The injuries ranged from minor to very serious, and all were preventable. Walking should never be equated with danger.
As a young boy I played a game called Frogger. The object of this game was to get a number of frogs across a street and a river, simple enough. The only obstacles to Atari glory were a collection of cars, trucks, diving turtles, and hungry crocodiles. Let’s go back and play a game.
Picture this; there I was rocking a Ninja Turtle t-shirt and Spiderman pants, with the confidence of a fashion visionary. I was playing the game of my life with the crazed manic intensity of a fledgling gamer. This was a game without end, level after level in an infinite series, more speed and more cars until inevitably a mistake is made and the frog gets it. Game over.
It didn’t matter how lucky that Ninja Turtle shirt was, or how badass those Spiderman pants were (and they were), eventually everyone lost. It was just a matter of time, how many vehicles, and how fast. Little did I know at the time that Frogger would be serious skills training for life as an adult.
The numbers are not flattering. According to Statistics Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador has the second highest rate of pedestrian injuries stemming for auto accidents in the Nation. Over 624 injuries per 100,000 people. Only Manitoba runs down pedestrians at a higher rate.
Tragedy enjoys company I suppose, because we have never needed people to walk more than we do today. Our business community relies on pedestrians, everyone walking by a shop window is a potential customer, every car driving by is traffic. Our social fabric depends on human interactions outside of our family or work environments, to see and recognize those who live around us. And most importantly, we all need physical activity in order to be healthy. The following is a truism which every long term health study has shown to have real merit. Every day you walk to complete your errands is another day of good health earned. Every day you drive is another day closer to poor health.
Our healthcare system is groaning under the crush of poor health. We need people to walk more often, it is really that simple, but, it is also a hard sell when cars are running people down and sidewalks are buried under 3 feet of snow or covered in ice. We can fix this.
I would like to highlight an experimental retro-fit of one of our streets this past summer. The intersection of Queen’s Road, Church Hill, and Veterans Square was adjusted to redirect the flow of traffic, to great success. Not only did this small alteration slow traffic down, it also provided shelter and eased the road crossings for pedestrians. This was a terrific innovation and something the city should be applauded for. We can make similar small tweaks to key areas to slow traffic and yes we do need to slow traffic down a considerable amount, to protect and ultimately encourage more people to walk.
If Frogger has taught us nothing else, it has shown beyond the shadow of a doubt, that given enough speed and traffic, eventually everyone loses.