Pedestrian advice: Walk as if your life depended on it

A new report in the Lancet medical journal on the health benefits of fighting global warming makes the usual prescriptions for cities, like making them easier places to walk and bike.

There are many splendid walking and bike routes here in Ottawa, but it’s no secret that much of the city is built for cars, and walkers take their chances.

According to the most recent City of Ottawa Safety Report, collisions killed 30 people here last year, 10 of them pedestrians. A safety campaign advises, “Walk as if your life depended on it,” and it’s good advice, but a little more attention, and right-of-way to the small, the soft and the slow, would be appreciated.

The city’s report also identified a “red zone” of 10 intersections where the most accidents occurred. Three intersections of St. Laurent Boulevard made the list, at Belfast Road, Industrial Avenue and Coventry Road.

Ah, Coventry Road, home to historic Empty Stadium in the heart of the industrial park. I bused with a companion to the train station this week, intending to walk to the Hampton Inn on Coventry.

Kitty-corner from the butt-ugly RCMP headquarters, it would be easily within walking distance, but a straight route would require crossing the Transitway and then a deadly game of Frogger across the 417. So we negotiated the obstacle course of concrete and gravel, across ramps spitting cars this way and that, on a circuitous and toe-curling trek to the hotel.

Even drivers are feeling the pain. When Canadian Automobile Association members voted on Ontario’s 20 worst roads this year, Ottawa won dishonours for two — Riverside Drive and Carling Avenue. And if motorists struggle to navigate these multi-lane traffic sewers, rest assured it’s even worse for those humping it along the sidewalk — at such points where a sidewalk is available.

Riverside’s intersections make the city’s crash-plagued red zone list twice, at Hunt Club and Heron. Carling isn’t statistically deadly enough to make the cut, but pieces of white plastic body moulding at Carling and Loretta testify to a recent crack-up.

Dickish driving elicited indignant honking near the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus Wednesday as I considered the pedestal-mounted, heroic-scale statue of Harold Fisher, apparently Ottawa’s mayor from 1917 to 1920. “If you would see his monument, look around you,” proclaims his plaque.

One is doubtless supposed to behold the hospital, on which His Worship cut the ribbon, but I was too busy dodging traffic and sucking fumes in the rain on the CAA-rated seventh worst road in Ontario.

That’s some monument, Harry.

Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; ottawaletters@metronews.ca.

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