As the City of Kingston strives to become a more liveable city, I read, with interest, three pedestrian-focused articles in the Kingston Whig Standard earlier this month. The first clarified new rules related to pedestrian crossings. The second (brief) article described how a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle on King Street. And, the third article focused on a 79-year old man clearing snow from a pathway leading to the Cataraqui Town Centre.
Kingstonians, for the most part, are not ‘walkers’. Most of us drive to work, school, and play. We aren’t particularly motivated to walk, despite knowing about the health and environmental benefits walking instead of driving. So, how do we reverse the attitudes of our residents and create a more pedestrian-friendly city?
While Toronto remains car-centric, its infrastructure does feature more ways for pedestrians to move around the city. There are pedestrian crossovers (crosswalks) everywhere in the core; push a button, lights flash, traffic stops (most times), and you can safely cross the street. There are many Ontario cities that offer the same type of traffic signals that are different from the standard intersection traffic lights.
Referring back to the first Whig article, it’s remarkable to me that a city the size of Kingston does not have crossovers. Instead, we have ‘Courtesy Crossings’, which means if you stand there long enough, there could potentially be a driver who stops and forces cars behind him/her to do the same. There are several in the city including one in front of City Hall on Ontario Street and another on Union Street near Livingston Avenue.
Kingston has only three mid-block pedestrian cross signals: outside 800 Princess Street, Frontenac S.S., and the Tett Centre. This means that new rules for crossovers and crossings as part of Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act only apply in Kingston at school crossings with a crossing guard. (If drivers don’t stop, they can be fined $150 to $500 and 3 demerit points.) These are good rules, but school zones are the only places in Kingston where they are relevant.
The second Whig article referred to a woman being struck by a car in Portsmouth Village. There are few details about what happened but if you have ever been at the intersection (King and Mowat), you know that vehicles substantially outnumber pedestrians in that area.
The final article introduced us to Bill Burkett, a Kingston newbie, who shovels a city-owned walkway that links his residential area to the mall. Bill takes the concept of Good Samaritan to a whole new level, which is awesome, but my goodness, the man is nearly 80 years old! He has also drawn attention to the lack of clear crossing signage on the mall property and the fact that there is no legal requirement for drivers to give pedestrians the right of way on private property.
The city, in its strategic planning, should focus more on building a safe, walkable infrastructure to encourage all of us to leave the car at home and walk to our destinations. I believe that’s an important step in making Kingston a more liveable city.