Councillors mull improvements for crosswalks

Rising number of collisions between pedestrians and vehicles has regional council trying to increase enforcement

Crosswalks can be dangerous territories for commuters not paying attention. Photo: Adam St.Pierre

As regional councillors discussed how to improve crosswalk safety, another pedestrian was struck no more than four blocks away.

A 27-year-old woman was crossing at the Cornwallis and Brunswick Street intersection when she was struck by a pickup truck, becoming the sixth person in the past week to be struck by a vehicle at a crosswalk. The total number of pedestrian/vehicle collisions this year is now 197, already eclipsing last year’s total of 176.

Inside city hall, Councillor Matt Whitman (Hammonds Plains St. Margarets) sought to amend language in next year’s budget to improve city crosswalks. He wanted to include language requiring more enforcement by Halifax Regional Police. This could include more ticketing and the creation of a crosswalk enforcement unit within the police.

“We’re not giving enough priority to the pedestrian-getting-hit issue,” said Whitman.

The item, to be discussed in December when next year’s budget talks begin, already included wording encouraging the improvement of infrastructure and the enhancement of education. But Whitman insisted enforcement had to be included.

Councillor Linda Mosher (Halifax West Armdale) and Councillor Barry Dalrymple (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley) suggested such action would have to go through the Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee and any police committees. A number of councillors debated whether it was even possible for their chamber to direct police action instead of encouraging it.

“The councillor’s heart is in the right place. I think this isn’t the spot for action.” said Deputy Mayor Darren Fisher (Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East).

Regional council has already been working to improve crosswalk safety in the city. Brad Anguish, director of Community & Recreation Services, said to date 552 crosswalks had been painted with improved zebra markings for extra visibility. Another 180 are also slated to be upgraded soon.

In October, regional council initiated a six-week campaign called “Heads up, Halifax!” aimed at raising awareness about the collision issue and emphasizing the need for commuters to share the road. Nov. 5 was Crosswalk Awareness Day, which saw volunteers stationed at crosswalks across the city armed with signs and pamphlets informing people of the need to be safe and aware of their surroundings.

Back at regional council, Whitman’s amendment for including enforcement alongside the language on infrastructure and education passed, but only barely. Exactly what enforcement entails is unclear and will only become known when the issue is raised in December.