Safety challenges need more than painted lines

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By GAYLE BAKER

In response to the good question about crosswalks posed by Larry Woods in his letter to the editor in last week’s Driftwood, the following is a glimpse into the limitations and progress of the CRD’s  Salt Spring Transportation Commission.

While Salt Spring’s only body with some responsibility for our roads, please keep in mind that they are all owned by the province and managed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). 

The transportation commission’s mandate is to work with MoTI to enhance pedestrian safety. Examples are the sidewalks and pathways that were recently constructed in Ganges and along Lower Ganges between Booth Canal and Central. Construction of additional pathways and sidewalks remain a top priority for commissioners, CRD staff, and our CRD director, Gary Holman. 

While MoTI approved three new crosswalks as a part of these sidewalk/pathway projects, it has been difficult to get MoTI approval for new crosswalks. Why is it difficult to do something as seemingly-simple as painting pedestrian crosswalks on our streets? Amazingly, every painted crosswalk has to be studied and approved by MoTI — and MoTI is not a big fan of crosswalks, relying upon the statistics that more pedestrian accidents occur in crosswalks. While one could argue that there are simply more pedestrians in crosswalks fuelling these statistics, MoTI’s response is generally that pedestrians are safer crossing mindfully at intersections than crossing on the painted lines with — possibly — a false sense of security. (A little-known fact is that all intersections are legal crosswalks even without the painted lines.)

Now, Larry. . . I can hear you scoffing at this. . . and you will get widespread support for questioning this logic. 

In response, the transportation commission, working with Gary Holman, MLA Adam Olsen and MoTI, is advocating for pedestrian safety by:

• Installing flags at many crosswalks (thanks Peter Meyer!). They can be placed at all crosswalks if utilized enough, so, grab one when you cross! 

• Working with ICBC to conduct a road safety study to identify danger areas that need signage and safety markings. 

• Supporting its Traffic Calming and Accessibility Working Groups to identify pedestrian safety and accessibility needs. 

• Using their recommendations, initiating a Ganges Active Transportation Study to further analyze pedestrian safety needs, presumably including additional crosswalks. 

• Developing a good working relationship with our MoTI area manager to enhance pedestrian safety.

Now, I know, it would be far easier to simply paint some lines on our streets, but please understand, we are aware of our many pedestrian safety challenges and are doing our very best to address them. 

The writer chairs the CRD’s Salt Spring Transportation Commission.

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