Seeing Zip On Vision Zero

It is horrible—when you actually stop to think about it—that someone dies crossing the road in this city.

This is where an 81-year-old woman was killed
On Thursday, an 81-year-old woman was hit and run over by a man driving a pickup at 111 Avenue and Groat Road. She is dead. She died the death of a rag doll, according to witnesses.

And it then all settled into a kind of routine. The outrage was routine. The descriptions of what happened were routine. The close-call accounts of others were routine. The conventional media reporting was so routine.

The routine, now so familiar, is part of the horrible.

And the Oilers lost a close one in overtime.

So far this young year, there have been two people killed by people driving automobiles in Edmonton. In none of the accounts that I have seen was there a mention that Edmonton has formally declared itself a Vision Zero city. Vision Zero commits municipalities to the goal of zero fatalities and zero major injuries on roadways. Edmonton is late to the game, and is following New York and Boston and Scandanavian cities, but we've stood up, quietly.

It is worth noting that conventional media in Edmonton have not picked up on the Vision Zero angle in the routine reporting of vehicle driver-pedestrian deaths. Because doing so would turn the cameras and microphones toward politicians and city administrators. (Indeed, why isn't it routine to hear from a ward councillor or the mayor or a city manager after a citizen is killed on the roads?). It might  turn the cameras and microphones toward the Alberta Motor Association, and, who knows, maybe even toward automobile manufacturers, as this lot, as well as others (one can imagine, say, the University of Alberta uplifting the whole community through innovative Vision Zero research that tapped the expertise across fields of knowledge) are forced to give us new answers to questions about an 81-year-old woman crossing the street and dying.

Or questions about a 49-year-old woman who died after a cement truck driver hit her in a downtown crosswalk in January.

Instead, what we got are facts about the time of day and the location of the collision. And pictures of a blanket on the road, or a shoe next to a pylon. And confirmation that the vehicle driver did not report any injuries. And a number tied to the growing list of traffic fatalities in the current year. (Why just the year? Why not have a running total since 1950? Why go back to zero pedestrian fatalities in Edmonton when the calendar year turns?) We typically get the perspective on this death from the investigating officer, but it is all very much fact after fact in this particular disaster, in some part due to the need to protect the impartiality of the officer's work if the case goes to trial. And to the fact that we don't know all the facts about the story, including anything that the pedestrians did or didn't do before being hit and killed or the full story of the actions of the driver.

This is where a 49-year-old woman was killed
What we don't get is what we need, which is a much more thoughtful and meaningful discussion with new accountability and new ideas from leaders, and not just accounts from investigators and horrified witnesses.

That can start in the reporting of the next routinely horrible "pedestrian fatal," because there will, horribly, be one.


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