On a Sunday night after Friday’s snowstorm, it was easy to see why pedestrians get hit by cars in St. John’s.
On Circular Road, a man dressed entirely in dark clothing strides onto the road in the middle of the block, almost invisible as he crosses to his parked car.
Halfway across the road, he unlocks the car doors with his remote — the car’s lights flash orange twice, distracting other drivers from the slight silhouette in the middle of the street.
He couldn’t have put himself at greater risk if he tried.
On Monday, near the main fire station on Harvey Road, three pedestrians in a span of about 100 feet of road decide to cross in front of traffic — not on crosswalks — and not waiting for traffic lights to offer a gap. At one point you can see all three, going in different directions, crossing from different sides, as the 4:30 p.m. traffic grinds to an unexpected halt.
Drivers are no better: three days after the snow and there’s still no place for pedestrians to walk except the street.
Drivers, however, are treating the road as if it was August and the pavement was clean, clear and dry.
Speeds are too high and yellow lights are almost universally treated as if they were a signal to speed up, not prepare to stop.
Drivers desperate for a cup of drive-thru
coffee are trying to muscle through traffic travelling in the other direction — pedestrians on the sidewalk are scarcely more than a passing imposition.
Accidents are not just likely — they are downright unavoidable.
And accidents there have been: two on Monday alone. The first, a woman who was on a crosswalk when she was hit by a right-turning car trying to edge into traffic on Topsail Road at Burgeo Street, the second, a man hit on LeMarchant Road at 15 minutes to midnight.
Both those incidents have generated plenty of Internet comment, with opinions split about whether distracted pedestrians or careless drivers should share more of the blame.
There are plenty of comments about other near-misses in similar situations, right down to close calls on the same exact Topsail Road crosswalk. There’s also been discussion about texting drivers, drivers who refuse to yield right-of-way to pedestrians on crosswalks, and comments about illegally parked cars blocking sightlines for crosswalks.
What’s obvious is that there is a problem, and it’s a problem that plenty of people are aware of — but awareness is only one small part of the equation.
The simple facts are that pedestrians do not always have access to sidewalks and often have no choice but to be on roads; that it is winter and driving conditions — from sightlines to stopping distances — are different than they are in summer, requiring different driving habits; and that we all have a role in safely dealing with what winter offers.
It happens every year, people. It shouldn’t be this dangerous.