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Reducing Elder Pedestrian Fatalities And the Alex and Ronni Show

It's no secret that people often walk more slowly as they grow old. Some use canes or walkers, and wheel chairs too that can further impede their speed, and this happens at a time in life when, in some cases, driving is no longer a choice.

The result is serious injury and, too often, death in crosswalks where walk/wait signs don't take older, slower pedestrians into account. Cyclists of all ages are also at high risk.

Recently, my friend and elderlaw/consumer attorney, John Gear of Salem, Oregon, forwarded a story about all this from The Guardian:

”...the tragic rise of cycling and pedestrian deaths in a city such as Toronto, the biggest city in one of the world’s most progressive countries, demonstrates that we are caught in the transition.

“We are adding density and pedestrians and cyclists without transforming the design of our streets, and in many cases refusing even to lower speeds limits, which tends to reduce deaths dramatically.”

The Toronto Police department maintains a “Killed or seriously injured” data page online. Numbers for the year 2017 show that 52 percent of pedestrian fatalities involving vehicles were people 55 and older (23 deaths in 44 collisions).

Counting all traffic fatalities in 2017, involving pedestrians of all ages, those 55 and older made up 23% of the total (36 deaths in 151).

The number of fatalties in 2017 in Toronto was down from 2016, when a five-year project, Vision Zero, was created to decrease traffic fatalities to zero. But recent numbers are not encouraging:

”...the rate of deaths on city streets is not declining,” The Star reported in May this year. “Including Wednesday’s fatal accident 18 pedestrians or cyclists have been killed in Toronto so far this year, according to data compiled by Toronto Police and the Star.

“That pace exceeds the number killed by May 16 in both 2013 and 2016, the two worst years in the data, which goes back to 2007.”

The demographics of cities everywhere are changing and, writes Jennifer Keesmaat in The Guardian story, that means streets, originally planned to be auto-friendly, must become more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly:

”In the old model, if driving is the key to freedom, then cyclists and pedestrians need to get out of the way. They are audacious, misplaced and – even worse – entitled. Who and what are streets for, anyway? They are places to get through, and fast. Lowering speed limits to ensure pedestrians are safe makes no sense...

“In the new model, however, streets aren’t just for getting through – they are places in their own right, designed for people, commerce, lingering and life. It’s the people, the human activity, that should come first.

“Cycling isn’t just for radicals and recreation, and lower speed limits make sense: they protect and enhance quality of city life. In Oslo, for example, where cars move slowly, an easy sharing of space takes place.”

New York City began a Vision Zero project four years ago to positive results:

”Traffic fatalities in New York, which launched its Vision Zero program in 2014, fell for three successive years through 2016,” reports The Star. “Traffic deaths in that period declined 23 per cent (this includes all traffic deaths, not just pedestrians.)

“That decrease came with a considerably larger investment than in Toronto.”

It is clear that slower speed limits, bike lanes, extending pedestrian crossing times, safety zones and, I would add, enforcing statutes against distracted driving (read smart phone use while driving) would go a long way toward reducing the number of traffic deaths.

Some years ago, my block association in Manhattan petitioned the city to extend the crosswalk time at one of the corners in our area because there were a lot of old people in the neighborhood who could not make it across the busy avenue in the time allotted.

It took us more than a year of petitions, meeting with city council representatives, phone calls, followups and more but we kept at it and eventually the city increased the crosswalk time.

You can do this too. We have an election coming up in November that beyond votes for federal senators and representatives, local offices are on ballots.

Between now and then, you could contact local officials and candidates with your suggestions for making the streets safer for old people in your community. Start a petition. Get neighbors involved. Make phone calls. Attend town halls. Make a calendar of activities to campaign for safer streets and stick to it.

And remember, one of the strongest arguments you have is that anything good for old people in a community is always good for everyone else too.

* * *

Here is latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.



Comments

What? I'm first?
Here I would like to see a couple of stop signs. We all would. Thanks for the tips to go about getting them.

We need longer crosswalk time here too. Even the kids can't make it across before the signal changes. Plus elders who are injured suffer much poorer, life altering injuries. Thanks for the information.

I just love your Ronni Alex conversations. I feel like I am in the room with you.

I wanted to mention that when your wrote about Rick's cafe I realized I had been fooled by a travel company. Many moons ago I was on a tour to Morocco and one of the women had joined the tour after it started and we had to drive to Casablanca to get her luggage. While driving through the city (It really is beautiful) he took us to see Rick's Cafe and it was nothing like the movie version or the recreation of Rick's that the American woman has done. Now I feel cheated. I guess it's like all the houses spread over the Mediterranean where Mary, mother of Jesus, is supposed to have spent her last years. Gullible tourists believe lots of myths.

Body hair is strange. I feel like the hair under my armpits is transferring itself to my chin. And I haven't had to shave my legs for years. I suppose that's one of the plus signs of aging.

Now for the bad news. I didn't know Millie was in the hospital. I do hope she is okay. She is such a sunny cheerful woman that it's hard to imagine her being sick. I wish for her good health.

I really fear for pedestrians at many of our busiest intersections. Four-lane arterials with 45 mph speed limits. Double left turn lanes in some cases. One barely notices a mere pedestrian with so many vehicles moving in every direction.

you two are great, my comment disappeared, but thinking all this talk about hair is for all of us too.

Herewith, one of my all-time favorite stories from the immortal Herb Caen:

Guy at stoplight on very busy San Francisco street. Taxi just in back of him. Walking across the divided, very wide street is the proverbial little old lady, walking very slowly. As she approaches the guy's part of the crosswalk, he can see she's not going to make it before the light turns red for her and green for him. Sure enough, the light turns, just as she's making her way in front of his car. Taxi driver in back of him honks loud and long. Guy gets out of his car, taking his keys, walks back to the taxi driver, hands the keys into the window, and says, "Here, you do it--I haven't got the heart."

They've installed new signage for pedestrian crossings in my area and in other residential areas around the metro area. There is a button you can push before you cross that initiates a frantic bright and blinking yellow light attached to the signs on both sides of the street. The speed limit on my street is 25 mph, but strangers frequently exceed the limit - did I say strangers? Some of my neighbors speed as well. In any case, I feel much safer walking my dog, especially at night, and it's fun to watch the speeders stop when the blinking starts.

P.S. I wish I could have a frank public video conversation with my x.

PS2 Not long ago I saw 5 Canada geese and 4 goslings crossing a busy 5-lane city street. They were in the crosswalk and, unbelievably with the light. I knew they weren't going to get all the way across before the light changed and I watched their progress with trepidation. Happy to say the cross traffic waited and the geese all made it to the other side.

You look great in the hat. Keep your bald spot underwraps :) I too have thin hair and while I easily embraced grey hair, don't plan to "easily embrace no hair".

Just an aside: after years of thinking that Rogaine probably wouldn't work for me, I gave it a thorough try and found it did indeed work for me. I have to use it every day, but it makes the difference between having visible areas of pink scalp and having what looks like a perfectly respectable head of hair. I don't buy the Rogain brand name--it costs a LOT more than whatever house brand the drugstore is selling. And it's the identical stuff. And I use the liquid with an eyedropper, not the foam.My dermatologist told me to be sure to get the 5% version that's packaged and sold for men only. She told me the 2% solution sold to women is no better than a placebo. And I've been using the 5% stuff for close to two years now, and I have almost no unwanted side effects: I do find it produces some small amount of itching and maybe even a little scaling, and I dealt with that by cutting back to one application a day. Another unexpected side effect is that, even though the stuff never runs down my face, just the proximity of the scalp to the face, apparently has resulted in a partial resurgence of decently thick eyebrows!

I love your comment: "Anything good for old people in a community is always good for everyone else too." That should become our motto!

I lived on NYC's most deadly street, Queens Boulevard. It was so bad (138 pedestrians were killed there since 1980) that is has been dubbed "The Boulevard of Death." NYC's mayor initiated "vision zero" which will attempt tp eliminate traffic fatalities by redesigning streets and traffic patterns. Naturally, this has caused many motorists, whose commutes are getting longer and longer, much consternation.
Fortunately, these new measures have actually reduced pedestrian fatalities quite a bit, but it is still impossible for an older, slower walking person to cross the Boulevard before the light changes.

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