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Vancouver had no pedestrian deaths in January for first time in seven years

Pedestrians cross W. Georgia St. in Vancouver Tuesday. An average of 18 road users are killed in traffic collisions each year in Vancouver, according to Vancouver Police Department 2006-2011 data.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

It was the safest January in seven years for Vancouver pedestrians, with no deaths last month despite typical cold, dark and rainy weather, the Vancouver Police Department says.

It's the seventh month in a row without any such deaths, a sharp turnaround from the first half of 2011, when a spike in fatalities triggered a public warning and a three-week safety blitz. Two pedestrians died in January, 2011.

"That is a remarkable statistic that has not happened in at least 20 years in the city of Vancouver," VPD Staff Sergeant Earl Andersen said.

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An average of 18 road users are killed in traffic collisions each year in Vancouver, according to 2006-2011 police data. Pedestrians represent about 53 per cent of the total.

Police gave credit for the seven-month success to recent strategies to make the city's streets safer. Those steps include installing pedestrian countdown timers at high-risk intersections, separated bike lanes on major cycling routes, and 43 new intersection safety cameras.

The newest campaign, "People Are Fragile," was launched on Tuesday. It is a partnership between city council, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and the Vancouver Police Department.

"People are fragile. They are not invincible. We break easily," deputy mayor Heather Deal said outside Christ Church Cathedral on Burrard and Georgia Streets as cars and trucks zoomed by.

Nearby, pedestrians scurrying down the sidewalk stopped to glance at phrases written in white across the sidewalk, with the last word splattered across the street, as if it were the victim of a collision. It reads: "My meeting is in less than 10 minutes I better hurry across the street."

The sidewalk writing is one of the many strategies targeting pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The campaign also consists of outdoor advertising in transit shelters and on buses.

The Vancouver Police Department will focus on enforcement at high pedestrian and cyclist crash locations.

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"We have told you where we are going to be and what we are going to be watching for," Sgt. Andersen said. "It will be up to you to decide whether you heed our warning or put the lives of others in jeopardy."

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