No One Will Solve My Problem

Road Safety Starts With YouWhat happened the last time that you decided to deal with a road safety problem? Were you successful in your quest? Were your views taken "for information purposes?" Did you get sucked into the whirlpool of "that's not my job" or worse still, ignored completely?


As taxpayers, we expect the appropriate level of government or the police to solve them for us. This is one of their jobs and we pay them to do that. How would you rate their service in this regard and why do you rate it that way?

For the most part, if the situation is an emergency, it receives high priority for attention and resolution. A washed out highway or a serious collision will be dealt with immediately by the appropriate resources.

A dangerous driver or malfunctioning traffic signal may receive slightly less attention depending on the level of concern, location and resources available.

But what happens when you have a complaint about a nuisance or a potential problem? If you are lucky, it will be responded to within a reasonable amount of time. If not, your wishes could either be ignored or even actively discouraged. What to do?

DriveSmartBC is sometimes asked for help when this doesn't happen.

Perhaps an example might be useful to guide others, so I resolved to make a special effort to involve myself and document it.

The opportunity came from Kelowna. The gentleman that contacted me lived in a gated community that was accessed from a busy road. He felt that a left turn lane was needed to allow for safe turns into the community but the City of Kelowna felt otherwise.

I began e-mail correspondence with him to define the problem, find a suitable solution and promote it for resolution.

It quickly became apparent that the perception of the problem was the speed of vehicles on the road and the only solution that he would consider was the turn lane.

After a half dozen volleys, he decided that I wasn't on his side and that he would look elsewhere for a solution.

The other side of this coin is a community action group in the Hillside-Quadra area of Victoria. Not only do they react to problems, they actively consider pending changes to their community and provide considered feedback to city council in an effort to positively influence those changes.

This is a very good example of what a community can do, both to solve and prevent road safety problems.

Like anything else in life, you need to look at your particular road safety issue and decide whether you want to deal with it and how much time and effort you want to invest.

If the problem is not that important to you, then report and forget is probably the appropriate choice.

If you do decide to take action, there is no shortage of information to use to advantage today. A bit of time with your favourite search engine may find an issue exactly like yours, what was done to solve it and maybe even contact information for those involved. Reach out and ask for help.

Now persist in your quest. Learn about the issue. Document your observations. Enlist others. Contact authorities, write letters to the editor, blog, post on social media. Be thoughtful and reasonable. Respect others.

It may seem like water wearing away stone, but you can make a difference if you really want to.

What is lacking in general terms about road safety we have in Canada is pedestrian education and public transportation in concert with city planning. It is so amazing that we are all brought up pretty well in an automobile. Toddlers are taught at a very young age with toy dashboard complete with a steering wheel mounted on the seatback in front of their car seats. I don't remember anywhere else in Canada a jurisdiction promoting pedestrian education about road safety. That is so disjointed as a society that treasures human life so much but is so clueless about educating the public on how to behave when walking along the sidewalk, crossing the road or even standing curbside waiting at the bus stop.

Growing up in the orient in the 50's and 60's, I can vividly recall an annual road safety exhibition at local government schools during the summer and winter breaks when the authority would put on a mockup city road system complete with paddle toy cars, traffic lights, and pedestrian crossing lending the opportunity for school students to experience the reality of road safety.

The reason I raise this issue is that there is just too many unfortunate loss of lives due to carelessness as well as lack of safety awareness both on the parts of the drivers and the pedestrians.

I can easily cite a few examples.....

1. Pedestrians and drivers very seldom make eye contacts with each other....educate, educate and educate more!

2. School students would seat on curbside stretching their legs out in the path of traffic. ....educate, educate and educate more!

3. Bus stops in the city are placed too close to the intersection which causes frantic commuters to rush crossing the road when attempting to make the connection. That's when the casualty occurs. Where I grew up in Asia, all bus stops are placed in the middle of the block to create a buffer for buses lining up without blocking the intersection. The sight of a stopped bus should not be visible from another bus stop located at 90 degrees to it. Imagine, if all bus stops are placed so close to the intersection. There will be a horrific traffic jam at the intersection during rush hours when buses, commuters, and vehicles are jostling to get out of the intersection. Inevitably, all traffic jams are caused at the intersections unless the city and the transit authority work together hand in hand to strategically plan these commuters boarding and unloading points. This is neither a transit nor city planning problem. It is the lack of concerted effort. There has to be a concerted effort put forth by both the transit authority and the city planning team to strategically locate bus stops.

4. There are no stringent road regulations governing the bikers. It is a free for all on the road for bikers at any time, even though the authority is promoting road users to favour bike as a desirable mode of transportation. Biking education in the city is as important as that for motoring and for pedestrians.

You see, the Europeans do not have the problems with biker etiquette. Biking to alleviate city traffic has been a culture entrenched even before WWII.

Biking in NA is in its infantile state. The growing pain has to be expected, but not without strategic education.

5. In a congested intersection, an optimal safety measure to guard against pedestrians spilling out onto the path of traffic is to install guardrails at curbside on either side of the pedestrian crossing egress/ingress point.

I'm going to have to disagree with you on a couple of things, though.

3. Bus stops in the city are placed too close to the intersection which causes frantic commuters to rush crossing the road when attempting to make the connection. That's when the casualty occurs.

If pedestrians are going to dash to catch a stationary bus, it's not going to matter whether that bus has stopped just after an intersection (our system) or in the middle of the block. Though frankly, pedestrians dashing in conflict with traffic are less likely to get hit mid-block unless they're suicidal. Most pedestrian deaths occur in crosswalks.

But there are fundamental, practical reasons for situating bus stops immediately after intersections. It gives them the room as they approach to move over in order to align with the bus stop while travelling across the intersection, so that the off-track of the rear end can get lined up with the curb along with the front; this allows following traffic to flow by in the travelling lane, unimpeded.

It also allows the bus driver to control the space in front of his bus, to ensure he can leave the bus stop without needing to reverse, which is highly risky and strictly forbidden for most transit drivers. (When I need to actually park a bus, or any large vehicle with limited visibility, I'll always look to locate it where nothing can park in front, usually at the end of the block or before a driveway.) And of course, when just stopping to onload/offload passengers, then using the space at the beginning of the block also provides the most space for cars to park in the rest of that block.

But on this, I'll have to agree:

What is lacking in general terms about road safety we have in Canada is pedestrian education

Pedestrians in this country - whether they be our children growing up here, or newcomers to the province - are woefully ignorant of how to conduct themselves safely (never mind legally). Minimal advice in school seems to be provided on how to be a pedestrian, and the same in the 'Learn to Drive Smart' guide (and who the heck actually reads that, unless they're studying for their Driver License?).

And it's my belief that we're going to see increasing numbers of pedestrian deaths and injuries in the next while. Not because of people running for a bus, but because of people - of all ages - walking into crosswalks while distracted by whatever device they're occupying theselves with. 

There is an old saying and to be polite I will use water here but "Water only flows downhill".

Taking your complaint to local authorities is a waste of time. Go to the top. The head of your local police department does not like being questioned by the AG office or the head of E Division. Point is a local complaint seldom get more than a cursory glance. On the other hand a query from head office does get an answer. And always put your complaint in writing. And expect to wait. Your complaint has to work its way down and back up the ladder.

The same with government. Always start with a written complaint or query as far up the chain of command you can go.

One of the most important things is to pick your battles. Do you have a serious complaint or is it just an irritant to you?