During last week’s City of Fernie council meeting, Mayor Mary Giuliano brought up the issues residents are having with the 9th Street pedestrian crossing. Council will be sending a recommendation to the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) that the lights be changed to better protect the residents of Fernie. I couldn’t agree with this recommendation more.
The lights have limited visibility not only during the day, but also at night, mainly because drivers are not looking to the sides of the road while they’re driving. They’re looking right in front of them, or at least they should be. That’s why the overhead lights are much more effective.
Pedestrians also often seem careless when using this crossing. Rather than pressing the button and waiting to see if oncoming traffic has in fact registered that they plan to cross a busy highway crossing, they push the button and then dart across the road. I personally am uncomfortable crossing a road until I’m certain the vehicle is going to come to a complete stop. Even at stop signs, some vehicles slam on their brakes last minute. You can never be completely certain that the driver of a vehicle has seen the lights activate at the 9th Street crossing and are prepared to stop.
I understand how that type of pedestrian crossing might be effective on a residential street where drivers are going 40 km/h or slower, but on a highway where drivers are travelling 60 km/h and above the concept of a minimal pedestrian crossing system seems unfathomable. Not only is that crossing putting pedestrians at risk, it’s also putting drivers are risk.
Drivers are not programmed to look for this sort of crossing, especially on a busy four-lane highway like this one. Drivers are programmed to look for that overhead lighting system, where a red light tells you to stop and a yellow light cautions you to slow down. Not only is the positioning of the lights confusing to many, but the colour of the crossing can be interpreted as a simple caution to slow down. The colour yellow is also harder to see, especially during the daytime when the sun is setting.
I believe the residents of Fernie would feel a lot safer if that pedestrian crosswalk were to have a full overhead lighting system, and although that would cost a great deal more than the current crossing, I think it’s a necessary expense to ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers.