Vancouver Police, with $30,000 from the province, are launching a three-week traffic enforcement blitz aimed at halting a spike in pedestrian deaths.
The new enforcement drive will see the VPD target 10 intersections deemed to be most dangerous, though half of the pedestrian deaths were clustered near Hastings and Main streets. And although the nine pedestrian deaths so far this year are nearly double the count for all of 2010, overall traffic injuries are actually down – particularly in the policing district that includes the Downtown Eastside.
Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will all be targeted during the blitz. But drivers going through the Downtown Eastside now face an additional hurdle: a 30-kilometre-an-hour speed limit between Jackson and Abbott Streets that was implemented by the city over the weekend.
“When you look at the fact that we are barely just 50 per cent of the way through the calendar year, and already we are seeing fatalities of pedestrians that exceed what we’ve seen in recent years … that is something to be concerned about,” said MLA Colin Hansen, who spoke on behalf of Solicitor-General Shirley Bond on Monday.
Mr. Hansen said the perception that the intersection between East Hastings and Main Street is much more dangerous than other corridors such as Burrard Street, between Dunsmuir and Davie streets, and Broadway, is inaccurate. Yet four of the nine deaths this year occurred around East Hastings Street. Most of the fatalities occurred in the middle of the night.
In July, a pedestrian was struck on East Cordova Street just after midnight. A month before that, a 52-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman were killed within a day of each other while they were crossing East Hastings Street between 3 and 4 a.m. And in January, a 79-year-old man was struck by a car at Main Street and Keefer Street.
Marion Allaart, executive director of the Vancouver Area of Drug Users, said speed is one of the biggest contributing factors to pedestrian deaths in the Downtown Eastside.
“My experience today is that it’s usually pedestrians that [the police]are [ticketing]the most, which really needs to shift, especially in our neighbourhood,” she said. “There’s less onus on motorists and we’d just like that to be more equal.”
According to Inspector Ted Schinbein of the VPD traffic unit, both distracted drivers and pedestrians who were jaywalking or leaving the curb when it is not safe to do so, have been the predominant cause of pedestrian deaths.
“For that reason, we will be targeting all road users,” he said, adding that officers will also focus on areas where they’ve seen a trend or increase in traffic injuries or fatalities.
Motorists will be targeted for cellphone use, traffic-light infractions, failing to yield to pedestrians and stop-sign offences. Officers will also be watching for pedestrians who are stepping off the curb when it is not safe and jaywalking, as well as cyclists who are riding on the sidewalk or failing to stop at stop signs or traffic lights.
The intersections to be watched
During the traffic enforcement campaign, Vancouver Police will be focusing on the city’s most dangerous corridors, including:
East Hastings Street, between Abbott and Nanaimo streets
Burrard Street, between Dunsmuir and Davie streets
East Broadway, between Ontario Street and Commercial Drive
Kingsway and Joyce Street
Kingsway and Victoria Drive
Grandview Highway South and Rupert Street
Broadway and Fraser Street
Main Street and Terminal Avenue
Broadway and Clark Drive