This is written as an imaginary correspondence between Patty the Pedestrian and Maddie the Motorist
Dear Patty the Pedestrian;
Last week, I noticed a pedestrian run across Mackenzie Avenue South from Chucks to Surplus Herbies. There is no crosswalk there. Why do pedestrians Jaywalk where there are no crosswalks?
Signed; Maddie the Motorist
It wasn’t me that day, Maddie.
On Mackenzie Avenue South, there are no pedestrian crosswalks between Highway 20 and Oliver Street. Continuing north, the next pedestrian crossing isn’t until the lights at Glendale. We pedestrians cannot reasonably be expected to walk to those few crossings. Maybe we need a few more zebra crossings.
Interestingly, I recently listened to an Under the Influence podcast by CBC’s Terry O’Reilly. In it, he detailed how before the 1920’s, roads were mixed-use spaces where it was safe to walk. Horses, bicycles and walking were the norm.
But then cars were becoming more common. Cars were injuring and killing pedestrians, many of them children and seniors.
Newspaper writers described the scenes in full gory detail. They blamed the drivers and called the cars killing machines. Some drivers were convicted of manslaughter.
Car makers panicked. But instead of controlling damage to people, O’Reilly recounts how manufacturers wanted “damage control” for their companies.
The spin doctors convinced newspapers to send them the incident information. In return, the public relations company wrote a ready-to-print article for the newspaper shifting the blame to the pedestrian. (Full reference: Podcast by Terry O’Reilly, CBC Radio’s Under the Influence, June 15, 2023)
How? The articles labelled the injured or killed walker a “Jay.” A “Jay” was a term used to describe a country bumpkin who is not savvy to town ways.
The term caught on and gradually local governments made “Jaywalking” illegal.
So now for 100 years, vehicles have ruled our roads.
But it would help pedestrians if there were more marked pedestrian crossings on Mackenzie and other places.
Please just watch out for us.
Signed; Patty the Pedestrian
Bert Groenenberg has been walking or biking for over 60 years.