It was another brutal week for Montreal pedestrians, with two people killed by vehicles in the span of two days.
An 89-year-old man was struck by a car Friday morning at Decarie and de Maisonneuve Blvds. in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. He became the 19th pedestrian fatality of 2019.
An 80-year-old woman was hit by a truck at the corner of Jean Talon Blvd. and Buies St. in St-Léonard on Wednesday. She was the 18th.
At 19, the death toll for 2019 has now surpassed that of 2018, when it reached a worrying six-year high at 18 fatalities. With weeks left until the end of the year, 2019 has already set a grim new record, at least in terms of recent history.
The 16th and 17th victims died of their injuries after the fact, said Montreal Police spokesperson Caroline Chevrefils. A 59-year-old man succumbed to his injuries after being hit in Ahuntsic-Cartierville on Nov. 1 and a 42-year-old woman perished after a collision in Rivière-des-Prairies on Oct. 31.
We can’t say we never saw this coming.
Earlier this month, the city and Montreal Police launched a new safety campaign warning that November is typically the most dangerous month for pedestrians. They urged drivers to slow down and implored people to be careful crossing the street.
Between the shorter days and dimming light, police commander Eric Soumpholphakdy said vulnerable pedestrians — particularly seniors — are more vulnerable in November. Sadly, his prognostication has proven true.
But the latest death was even more predictable to local pedestrian advocates, who have been sounding the alarm about the chaotic corner where the man was killed Friday.
Decarie and de Maisonneuve is not only congested, it’s strangely configured. On the west side de Maisonneuve slopes down on an angle, while Upper Lachine Rd. veers off below an underpass. The métro, commuter rail, and many bus routes converge at Vendôme station. A major axis of the bike path swings through. Staff and patients descend on the McGill University Health Centre by car, foot, bike, transit or ambulance.
“It’s so dangerous. It’s a star intersection with like five branches,” said Dan Lambert, a member of the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of N.D.G.
Yet pedestrians are given only six seconds to start a protected crossing in this maelstrom before the signals allow cars to start turning.
“We’ve been asking for years for a four-way pedestrian crossing,” Lambert said. “It’s extremely frustrating.”
A scramble intersection, as its sometimes called, would stop all traffic and let pedestrians cross all at once — even diagonally. This would be in line with the principles of Vision Zero, the strategy Montreal adopted to reduce risks on the roads through design, among other measures.
But Jason Savard, another member of the N.D.G. pedestrian and cycling group, said nothing has changed despite community pleas.
“We even made videos to advocate for a safer intersection,” he said. “It’s definitely upsetting.”
Several recent pedestrian collisions occurred in N.D.G., a residential neighbourhood where many families and seniors live. Cassie Cahoon, the 15th fatality, was killed by a turning truck at the corner of Girouard and Terrebonne Sts. in September. A woman was struck at the corner of Somerled and Mariette Aves. in October. Bystanders lifted the car to free her after she became trapped underneath and left gravely injured.
Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in Montreal. They are still lower than decades past, but above the average of 15 for the past few years. It’s a trend seen across North America as a result of an evolving transportation paradox. While more drivers are logging more kilometres in bigger vehicles, other people are increasingly turning to active transportation, like cycling and walking. These competing groups are entering into conflict and cities are the main battleground. But it is starkly apparent who is coming out on the losing end.
Vision Zero is supposed to help divvy up the road space to promote better sharing. Quebec’s Highway Safety Code was recently amended to introduce the duty of prudence for drivers, in recognition of the outsized harm vehicles can inflict on others. A number of recent ad campaigns have sought to raise awareness. Despite all of this, the death toll has edged up.
We must no longer accept pedestrian fatalities as inevitable, when these tragedies have been chillingly foretold.