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Dear Editor,

It is increasingly dangerous to be on our roads, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. As a mother on parental leave and a runner, I have near-misses with cars and trucks almost daily. I’m calling on our community to commit to making our streets safer for everyone.

Just last week my family was walking downtown on 2nd Ave East. We waited for the green light and walk signal and were about to cross 10th street by Channing’s restaurant when the driver of a truck turning right on to 10th street ignored our right of way, pushed through the intersection, and almost hit my stroller with our 9 month old baby inside.

That same week, a friend and I were running on the sidewalk past Alexandra School at 8:45am on a school day. When we were meters away from the exit of the drop-off zone we watched a truck blow through the stop sign at the end of the school parking lot and drive away. The driver was not looking for pedestrians, including us, or any of the kids walking to school who had the right of way across that intersection.

I use these examples because they help explain the source of fear I feel as a mother whose son will one day want to walk two blocks to the park by himself or ride his bike around town. If drivers don’t see a family of three pushing a stroller or two adults running on the sidewalk in front of an elementary school, then who do they see?
These road safety concerns are not unique to Owen Sound. This summer was rife with tragedy on the roadways of neighbouring communities including pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries. Accidents will happen, however a heartbreaking number of these incidents are preventable.

There are steps we can take as a community to make our streets safer for everyone. I don’t see an increased police presence being one of them. What we need is a culture of everyone wanting to do what they can to keep everyone else safe, not a practice of trying to keep the roads safe by relying on police to catch the people who are breaking the rules. That isn’t working for us.

Our roads can be safer right now if drivers take it upon themselves to expect pedestrians and to look for them. Know that pedestrians and cyclists have a right to use the road and should be encouraged to do so! The times I feel the most unsafe as a pedestrian are when drivers are in an intersection waiting to make a right or left hand turn. They are looking for a gap in the traffic to nip through and they very often do not recheck for pedestrians. That driver of the truck who almost hit our stroller? It didn’t seem like it occurred to him that there would be any pedestrians crossing the street. Or, if I am being less generous, that he was too impatient to wait for our family to cross.

We urgently need roads that are designed to be safely used by people who are not in cars. Owen Sound doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel on this. There are many communities that have intentionally designed roads to be safer for everyone with features like narrowed streets, curved roads, speedbumps, and raised crosswalks. These are all traffic calming measures that encourage drivers to slow down and be aware of their surroundings.

Like all good solutions, investing in safer road design solves multiple problems. Number one, it helps keep people safe. But it also makes car-less commuting more attractive, which cuts down on traffic, as well as noise and air pollution. It saves us money in road maintenance and infrastructure (bigger roads are more expensive).

In Owen Sound, the safety of our downtown is an election issue. It was referenced in a question posed to prospective City Councillors at the All Candidates meeting last week. I am willing to bet that anyone who is a routine pedestrian or cyclist in Owen Sound understands that it is dangerous to be someone on our roads who is not in a car, and I call on City Hall to work to address this problem.

I am also calling on my community to literally look out for each other. If you drive a vehicle, please commit to always be on the lookout for pedestrians.

Thank you,

Brianna Cavan
Resident of Owen Sound




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