News / Calgary

'Shocking' Alberta Transportation pedestrian graphic pulled after outrage

Calgary's pedestrian advocates, Twitter called out the Alberta Government sanctioned PSA calling on pedestrians to 'pay attention' lest they get hit by a car

Alberta Transportation posted a graphic of a pedestrian being struck in an intersection.

Courtesy/ Alberta Transportation

Alberta Transportation posted a graphic of a pedestrian being struck in an intersection.

Shocking, and asinine.

Aside from the online response blasting Alberta Transportation for a tweet most are calling misguided at best – Calgary’s vision zero community has some major concerns with a government-released depiction which has been taken offline after backlash.

In the cartoonish picture, a crash-test dummy in a vehicle strikes a crash-test pedestrian in a marked crosswalk – all the while a crash-test dummy with a walker looks on with question marks in the air.

A PSA, not for motorists, but for pedestrians reads: “Pedestrians, Pay Attention! Pedestrians have the responsibility to cross safely. Consuming alcohol or using electronic devices increases your risk of injury when crossing.”

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In a statement from Adam Johnson with the department, he explains the graphic was used to raise awareness for “intersection safety month.”

“It was designed to raise awareness about pedestrian safety,” wrote Johnson. “It was meant to remind pedestrians that, though they may have the right of way, driver behaviour cannot be guaranteed and pedestrians can stay safe by being alert and paying attention to their surroundings. Unfortunately the graphic did not convey the message intended, and has been deleted.”

If you haven’t seen it, the crossing victim is listening to music, looking at its phone and consuming an open bottle in the crosswalk – all while the driver stares at the viewer with a thumbs up gesture.

“It was rather shocking,” said Kimberley Nelson, a member of Vision Zero Calgary. “The wording is pretty asinine. Everything about it is rather offensive.”

Nelson said she does think it’s important for pedestrians to pay attention, and practice the 'point, pause, proceed' mantra before setting foot in a crosswalk.

In Calgary, the first pedestrian death of 2016 was in February, when a 66-year-old woman was crossing Centre Street North. At the time, police said the crosswalk’s lights were in working order, and neither speed nor alcohol were considered factors in the crash. There were numerous pedestrian deaths last year.

Seven years ago, though not in a marked crosswalk, Laura Combden’s boyfriend made a crossing decision on the coldest day of the year. He was hit, and died.

“It was during rush hour, it was minus 40 that day, and neither driver or pedestrian saw each other,” Combden said. “The police, when they came to my house to discuss the accident, they weren’t very sensitive and implied they hadn’t got his alcohol level back yet.”

She said she was taken aback. He left at six in the morning to go to work. Although he chose to skip the crosswalk and continue walking before crossing mid-street, she knew he hadn’t consumed any alcohol before she kissed him on his way to work.

“This picture, it’s quite ignorant,” Combden said. “Blame doesn’t solve anything, blame is one of the first responses people have in these scenarios, and in placing blame nothing ever gets fixed.”

She said she’s been watching pedestrian crashes for seven years, and blame comes up, but design solutions don’t.

The City of Calgary is working on known problem areas, with investments from their newly approved pedestrian strategy.

This ad, which was signed off by the Alberta Government, highlights a “safe roads” website, where all modes are given the low-down on street security. Sections for pedestrians include drinking and walking, distracted walking, visibility, and how to cross a street properly.

Johnson said the graphic won’t be used again by the department. He noted Alberta Transportation’s campaigns aim to increase awareness for all modes – with the ultimate goal of preventing collisions and saving lives through the Safe Systems Approach.

“It’s surprising someone of the communication staff level side is creating these (graphics), even more so that it’s getting approved,” said Nelson. “It’s pretty gross.” 

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