Keith Simmons says his son’s daily problem of trying to cross Acadia Drive to get to school shows the city needs to do more for pedestrian safety.
Simmons recorded a 23 second video of his son Marshal trying to cross the road on Wednesday morning, and he posted it to Twitter.
In that time, three cars fly past the nine-year-old, who even steps out onto the road to try and make his presence known.
A car travelling in the opposite direction does stop for Marshall. Although outside the video frame, it can be seen flashing high beams and heard honking at the approaching cars that do not stop.
Simmons shot the video after his son told him how difficult it was to get across Acadia Drive.
“The other day, he said to me, ‘Oh yeah Dad, eight cars wouldn’t stop for me today.’”
Tony Churchill with the City of Calgary Traffic Safety recently told LiveWire Calgary in an interview not related to this specific story, that Calgary’s typical yield rate at marked crossings is around 70 per cent. He said in other jurisdictions across Canada it’s around 40 per cent.
“Here in Alberta, and Calgary specifically, our yielding rates, just as a base, even before we put in any enhancements, are generally around that 70 per cent,” he said, noting that other cities in Canada achieve those rates only after putting in things like rapid flash beacons.
“That’s partly to do with the province’s Traffic Safety Act, because of the requirement to yield to pedestrians.”
Churchill said that compliance at unmarked crossings does go down slightly, but is still relatively high in Calgary – roughly between 60 and 70 per cent. He said that time of day (darkness or light in driver’s eyes), physical size of pedestrian and whether or not there are visual cues (arm out to cross, reflective tape, etc) influence a driver’s ability to see pedestrians waiting to cross.
He said it’s a complex interaction with a variety of factors involved.
Simmons said there once was a painted crosswalk at the intersection, but it’s now gone.
“When it got repaved, the determination was there wasn’t a high enough frequency of pedestrian traffic to warrant repainting the lines,” he said.
Acadia Drive is a residential collector road. It has residential homes, but it also has a yellow line painted in the middle, and is wider than the less-busy side streets.
In city council’s recent discussion about lowering residential speed limits to 30 kilometres per hour, Acadia Drive is a road that would likely not see its speed limit lower.
Simmons thinks a painted crosswalk is not enough. He has a different solution in mind.
“In that particular place and a number of places in Calgary where the road is that wide, we need to narrow the pedestrian crossing distance,” said Simmons.
He said those sorts of traffic calming measures allow pedestrians to safely step out where they’re more visible, which gives drivers time to see they need to stop.
Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell said she saw Simmons’ video and thought it was fairly representative of how pedestrians are treated in Calgary.
“Take that experience and multiply it thousands of times of day,” said Farrell. “It really demonstrates the need to do better.”
She said the city has temporary curb extensions that could be brought into intersections like the one in Simmons’ video.
“They’re inexpensive and movable, so we can test different areas,” she said.
Simmons said he’s glad to see how his son confidently but cautiously steps out to make himself known to the approaching cars.
“He’s being appropriately cautious as a pedestrian,” said Simmons. “But when you put it in the context of a residential road – why does he need to be so cautious? He’s not trying to cross Southland. He’s simply trying to cross the road in front of his home to go to school.”
Simmons believes traffic calming needs to be part of a larger conversation about the livability of residential spaces.
“If we’re all intimidated by the asphalt in front of our homes, then it’s not livable. It’s not good.”