City shines the light on pedestrian safety

Safer Roads Ottawa staff hand out visibility products to pedestrians in downtown Ottawa.

As the days get shorter, it naturally gets harder to see people crossing the street. That's something the people of Safer Roads Ottawa want to help alleviate.

A brief event at the corner of George Street and Dalhousie Street was about just that.

Dozens of items, from reflective scarves and tuques to clip on LEDs for your bag or your bicycle, were handed out to passersby Tuesday afternoon.

"There's all sorts of devices people can use to make them more visible," Safer Roads Ottawa's Rob Wilkinson says. "It's getting darker earlier, and we want to promote this product going out to people. Between now and November 6, any resident can go to any fire station and get a free set of bike lights or a free pedestrian light."

As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That's the attitude of the Director of Medical Trauma at the Ottawa Hospital, Jacinthe Lampron, who was also at the event.

Lampron jokes she wants to be "out of business" because she sees simply too many collisions involving pedestrians.

"I deal with trauma every day," Lampron says. "In pedestrian versus car, it's always the car that wins. There are a lot of severe injuries, and it totally changes the lives of people involved in crashes like that. Their lives are rarely the same, even after rehabilitation."

In fact, statistics collected between 2010 and 2014 confirm that. Across 1,754 collisions, pedestrians were injured in 1,728 cases. 36 cases were fatal. By contrast, only 42 drivers or passengers inside vehicles suffered injuries, the majority minimal to minor. None of them lost their lives.

70% of all collisions involving pedestrians happen at intersections, and they happened more often in the afternoon rush hour, in the latter part of the year, right when it gets dark in the late afternoon.

It's an issue Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury says he deals with on a regular basis.

"I don't think you have a more urban ward," he says. "In an area like this, if you're a driver, a cyclist, a pedestrian, a bus user, they all interact. The key element is visibility. How can you be seen as a pedestrian? We just passed Hallowe'en, where on kids costumes there's reflective gear. Let's carry that momentum on and make sure that as we enjoy the fall walking and cycling, we're seen."

The event was part of a joint campaign with Ministry of Transportation in six Ontario cities.