The law is pretty clear. Sexual assault is a crime and perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law no matter how the victim presented themselves. In theory, a young lady should be able to walk alone through a shady part of town after having a few drinks and while dressed scantily without any fear of being assaulted because she is under the protection of the law. In reality, such a choice would be very stupid and being legally in the right would be of the coldest of comforts after one has been assaulted.
In theory, I should be able to leave my wallet full of cash on a table in a seedy bar while I go to the washroom and expect it to still be there when I get back because it would be against the law for somebody to steal it. In reality that choice would be idiocy and I likely would lose my wallet. I could scream indignantly to my heart’s content but would not get satisfaction despite my being legally in the right.
What I am getting at is that if we truly want to mitigate crimes and victims we need to look at prevention as well as simply legislation against criminal actions.
Despite our great record on pedestrian safety, our local anti-auto ideologues have been working to manufacture a false pedestrian crisis by loudly and hysterically highlighting every reported pedestrian incident as they happen. Never mind that in a city of over a million people that having less than one incident per day is actually incredibly safe. Never mind that the pedestrian is often at fault rather than the automotive or train operator. Never mind that these incidents are often minor (though they can often be tragic too). These people want to create a scenario where folks feel that autos are too plentiful and going too fast in hopes of justifying more expensive and idiotic infrastructure such as underutilized bike lanes in order to hinder traffic.
The fact that traffic hindrance costs millions of hours in productivity and is terrible for the environment is lost on these ideologues. They have a simplistic goal of creating a downtown hipster’s Nirvana where the personal vehicles no longer exist and all folks walk to the local coffee collective together to read poetry while bills and taxes somehow magically pay themselves. If it means grossly exaggerating pedestrian incidents in the city, so be it.
All that being said, it certainly is a good thing to try and reduce pedestrian incidents on the streets even if the stats are already good. What we need to focus on though is what actually will work rather than what will hinder cars.
Below is a rather graphic video. It is a collection of pedestrians getting nailed by cars as they mindlessly walk out into busy streets. Many of these pedestrians were in crosswalks and were legally in the right. Alas, the law and a coat of white paint did not protect them from the law of physics and many have been grievously injured and killed.
The bottom line is that it is incumbent on pedestrians to pay attention to their surroundings because in a traffic incident, they clearly have the most to lose. It doesn’t matter what the damn law is and cracking down further on cars isn’t the answer if mitigation of actual accidents is truly the goal. We need to change that entrenched and entitled attitude that many pedestrians have where they seem to think that white paint can stop a car dead in it’s tracks.
To any drivers reading this, I know you have seen incidents where pedestrians simply stride into the street without pause or looking left and right as they know they are in a crosswalk. How many times have you had to slam on the brakes and think to your self “I sure am glad I wasn’t adjusting the heat in the car or something or I would have nailed that foolish son of a bitch”.
Hitting one of those crosswalk buttons to make the light flash does not bring cars and trucks to an immediate stop. It takes time for the lights to register, for the brakes to be applied and for the vehicle to stop. One of the things we need to do is change those lights so that they don’t immediately light up upon pushing the button.
I worked in Stillwater Oklahoma for a few months a few years back. It is a college town and at lunchtime or class breaks, the streets and walks are completely flooded with students. Despite this, traffic flowed rather well. The reason was that while there were countless light controlled pedestrian crossings, those lights did not turn on immediately when a pedestrian hit the button. The lights were much like traffic lights in general. The pedestrian would hit the button and wait. Within perhaps 30 seconds, the light would flash a warning to drivers and then would go red so that pedestrians could cross. This forced pedestrians to pause and pay attention. This also gave warning to drivers. On top of it all, it made things more efficient as 20-30 pedestrians would cross and then the light would change so that autos could move again. Otherwise we would see that endless stream of pedestrians that often frustrates drivers into unsafe actions and mires traffic for blocks.
Scramble crossings are another good idea to move large numbers of pedestrians with minimal impact on traffic. Like the lights in Stillwater though, they are only on for certain periods and pedestrians are not allowed in the roadways otherwise.
With uncontrolled crossings, there still is no substitute for pedestrian awareness and education. People need to look out before stepping into that damned street no matter how legally right they are. How can they assume that the driver coming down the road is paying attention? The price is too high to assume that the law will protect you.
Barney covered it well with children. It seems that the lesson didn’t stick into adulthood with many.
Law enforcement is still important of course. Drivers should be heavily ticketed for blowing through crosswalks and lights. It is terribly dangerous and should not be taken lightly.
That said, we need to see more crackdowns on jaywalking and dangerous pedestrian practices too. Many pedestrian accidents are fully the fault of the pedestrian.
More than anything though if we truly want to mitigate damage we need to look towards personal responsibility.
That means dropping the anti-auto rhetoric and seeking real solutions.
I don’t expect that from Calgary’s distorted transportation department soon unfortunately but perhaps we will see change after next year’s election.
In the meantime, don’t forget to look both ways….