Craig Coolahan was walking his four-year-old to the nearby preschool Monday and decided it was time to shoot video on how unsafe it was to cross 14 Street NW – at a marked and signed crosswalk.
Coolahan, who’s also the area MLA (Calgary-Klein), had a near miss at the same intersection a few weeks back, one that prompted a letter from another of the preschool’s parents to Calgary city councillor Druh Farrell. He’s no stranger to the danger as he also used to walk his older daughter to the same preschool years back.
“It was my way of trying to demonstrate how dangerous that crosswalk is,” Coolahan said.
“I wanted video evidence of how bad it was there. People just don’t care. People were just zipping by us.”
The video shows Coolahan walking across at 21 Avenue NW with a handful of cars still whizzing by as they were halfway across the crosswalk. He said road conditions were good, the sight line was good, and they had another adult male walking with them.
“So (the drivers) saw us,” he said.
Coolahan would love to see some additional pedestrian infrastructure there, perhaps some overhead lights. He said the location has been reviewed by the city before, but it didn’t reach the required score of further enhancements.
Tony Churchill, Traffic Safety lead with the City of Calgary confirmed the site had been reviewed within the past five years and received a score of 20. Typically, he said, these sites don’t get overhead pedestrian lights until they reach a score of 80.
Churchill said that intersection would be reviewed again with the expanded traffic safety budget in 2019 but doubted there would be enough change to warrant overhead pedestrian lights.
“It’s not necessarily that it wouldn’t help there, it’s just that there are a lot of other locations where it might be more needed based on traffic volumes and number of pedestrian crossings there,” he said.
Churchill did say that while it may not qualify for the overhead lights, which denote a pedestrian corridor, new guidelines around pedestrian enhancements at certain intersections may help them qualify for the pedestrian-activated rapid flash beacons affixed to the crosswalk signs.
Coun. Farrell is aware of the dangers of this particular intersection. She said a number of factors, including road design, distracted driving and a sense of entitlement to break the law are contributing factors.
When asked what it typically takes for an intersection to get to a score of 80, her response was matter of fact.
“It takes a death. We’re supposed to do better than that.”
She said the city’s pedestrian strategy discusses changing the warrant system – the criteria for warranting traffic safety upgrades – and it’s focused on prevention.
“It really deals with pedestrian safety when there’s a severe injury collision or death. Sometimes multiple deaths before it’s warranted to act,” Farrell said.
“With the pedestrian strategy, we’re supposed to know better. We’re supposed to be able to analyze intersections and act before somebody gets killed.”
After reviewing the video, Churchill said it’s probably a combination of potential crosswalk upgrades and inattentive drivers.
“14 Street has a traffic through-put function. People are just thinking more about continuing on their route rather than watching for pedestrians,” he said.
But that’s where potential upgrades to the intersection could be better at alerting drivers.
“At the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of motorists to be watching out for and yielding to pedestrians,” he said.
Coolahan just wants a safe place to cross. He doesn’t understand why drivers don’t stop at a marked crosswalk with people already in it.
“It’s completely selfish. That’s what it is,” he said.
“(The drivers) knew we were there, they just couldn’t be bothered to stop. It’s that simple.”