by David Herman
I have written about my concerns with crosswalk safety and generally about how we need to make our community safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
Last year and again this year, we have traveled to Nova Scotia and noticed around the province that they had an organized system to make pedestrians more visible to drivers. There they have a system of bright, easily seen flags at stores and easily available on both sides of the street. When you want to cross the street or road, you raise the flag, which makes the pedestrian very visible to even the most distracted driver. This does not mean that you can hold up a flag and then walk out into traffic without reassuring yourself that you are seen, but I have to say that when my wife and I were walking around downtown Dartmouth we seldom needed the flag as drivers saw us approaching the crosswalk and they stopped for us usually. On busier streets, we did use the flag. As I said, the flags are on both sides of the street and so once you have crossed the street, you just leave your flag in the provided container.
This is not an entirely new idea, as apparently it was first used in Japan in the 1990s, but it is used currently in Canada in Nova Scotia at 456 crosswalks across the province. They are also used in lesser numbers in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. There are a number of crosswalk flag programs throughout the United States, the most significant one being the now (April 2016) 229 locations in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as in Japan.
The cost of outfitting a crosswalk is about $200 each. This cost in Nova Scotia as my example is borne by various Businesses, Councillors, Municipalities, and individuals.
Since returning to Kemptville the first of the week, I was pleased to see that the crosswalks and courtesy crossings have been painted, and a little surprised to see that drivers were paying more attention to the fact that these pedestrian crossings existed. I started to think that maybe we do not need anything other than fresh paint, but then I was crossing on Reuben Crescent on the west side of Prescott Street heading South with the Walk symbol in my favour, and two vehicles turning onto Reuben chased me back onto the sidewalk; then once they passed, I started again when a car northbound on Prescott turned left onto Reuben again sending me scrambling for safely. There are a lot of people who feel whatever they are doing is more important than respecting the rights of pedestrians to cross when the walk sign is in the pedestrians favour.
Another story for another time is the fact that Kemptville is gaining a reputation for drivers that do not stop at stop signs. You hear this from people who come to Kemptville for medical services at our wonderful Hospital.