An increase in pedestrian fatalities is cause for extra precaution

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Langara students cross the busy intersection on Columbia Street and 49th Avenue. Photo by Nick Eagland.
Langara students cross the busy intersection on Columbia Street and 49th Avenue. Photo by Nick Eagland.

A 56-year-old Vancouver man died in hospital late Wednesday night after an SUV struck him on an East Hastings Street sidewalk Tuesday morning.

The man was hit when the SUV swerved to avoid a collision.

In the wake of two other pedestrians killed Wednesday after a hit-and-run in Coquitlam, and almost daily reports of cars hitting cyclists and pedestrians, ICBC is warning people to make themselves visible and keep their eyes off their smartphones while crossing the street.

How safe are students walking to school?

Every day, throngs of students cross 49th Avenue at Columbia Street and Manitoba Street to get to Langara’s campus. Often, they are rushing for classes or distracted by their phones, but do they worry about the threat of a collision?

“Not around Langara, I think it’s pretty safe,” said arts student Luc Plagnol. “If you cross at the crosswalks, it’s good, but if you jaywalk, it’s pretty sketchy.”

But Plagnol admitted he occasionally ignores pedestrian signals.

“I’m not gonna lie, I book it sometimes, but you know – gotta get to class and stuff, get home.”

Publishing student Nat Gray is more concerned about interacting with cars as a cyclist.

“I feel the least safe on my bike,” said Gray. “It was actually at this intersection [Columbia Street and 49th Avenue] that I almost got taken-out by someone that was making a right [turn]. I feel like that’s my main concern ­– with cycling.”

Gray also thought drivers are “even more aggressive toward skateboarders.”

Rudi Dickstein, an arts student and longboarder said he feels safe around Langara and hasn’t had “any close calls.”

“I share the roads a lot,” said Dickstein. “I usually don’t go out on wheels or running around on the street after nine.”

Winter months are a cause for concern

ICBC road safety manager Jill Blacklock said there are twice as many pedestrian-car collisions in November and December compared to the summer months of July and August, in part due to the shorter days.

“What we recommend is do whatever you can to make sure you’re more visible. Make sure that you’re crossing the street at designated crosswalks. Make sure the driver sees you and gives you some kind of acknowledgement.”

Blacklock said ICBC recently ran a survey of its customers and found that pedestrians have become increasingly wary of collisions with cars.

“What we’re seeing is pedestrians are feeling quite reluctant when they’re crossing the street and their biggest concern is distracted driving.”

However, Blacklock said that drivers have a similar concern about distracted pedestrians “who are on their cellphones or texting or have their headsets on.”

Reported by Nick Eagland

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