Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Jaywalking: cross at your own risk

Pedestrians must shoulder their share of the responsibility

By Tim Schewe

I read the Victoria Times Colonist online each morning and a story about jaywalking caught my attention. After reading the story all I am left with is the feeling that the situation was poorly explained and readers might decide that the police should have been doing more important things than enforcing pedestrian bylaws.

A spokesperson for the City of Victoria says that jaywalking is allowed in the area under discussion because of an exemption to the traffic bylaw used to promote a pedestrian friendly area.

Jaywalking was born from the continuing evolution of the motor vehicle and the streets that it ran on. In the beginning when vehicle speeds were 16 km/h or slower, one simply walked across wherever they wished to. As vehicle speeds increased, this became a dangerous thing to do if a pedestrian didn’t exercise some caution. The power of shame was applied to people who had the audacity to cross anywhere other than at the intersection.

Jaywalking is something that everyone does and it isn’t always a bad thing to do.

The two sections in the Motor Vehicle Act that regulate pedestrians not in a crosswalk only do so when the pedestrian has either failed to yield to vehicular traffic or stepped off the curb at a time when the driver could not yield to them even if they tried to. Both of these situations are dangerous, interrupt traffic flow and potentially result in injury or death. The adults being dealt with in this story for failing to yield that feel put upon definitely know better and have no room to complain.

Jaywalking may be prohibited on streets within municipal boundaries, but only if the municipality has created a bylaw to discourage it.

Mid-block crossings can be safer than crosswalks at intersections because drivers have fewer demands on their attention and are more likely to see and react to pedestrians. Whether this extends to random crossing rather than a marked mid-block crossing depends on the level of risk that a pedestrian is willing to take.

In 2020, ICBC collision statistics report that 1,600 collisions injured 1,500 and killed (in 2019) 49 people in our province. This is a significant decrease from previous years. About 40 per cent of these collisions resulted from the pedestrian doing something that involved them in the collision rather than being the fault of the driver.

It’s not reasonable to only deal with the drivers. Pedestrians must shoulder their share of the responsibility and perhaps need a refresher on how to cross the road safely.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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