The Tomato

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New ‘Don’t Share the Road’ campaign aims to get walkers off roads

January has become Don’t Share the Road month in Ottawa, and drivers are coming together to voice their displeasure at pedestrians on or near roads.

“Lately, pedestrians have been out of control,” said Margaret Kartfield at the first annual Keep Pedestrians off the Road meeting on Jan. 8 at City Hall.

“They are walking across the street, way before I ever have a chance to turn left,” she said. Don’t they know the walk symbol means yield to vehicles?”

Greg Mansling, a government worker in the downtown core, believes his commute to work would be a lot smoother if pedestrians were kept off the road.

“They should stay on the sidewalks where they belong,” said Mansling. “Roads are for cars, not people.”

The City of Ottawa has been working with drivers to solve the issue of pedestrian road traffic. Some of the options, proposed at the Jan. 8 meeting included underground tunnels to replace crosswalks or rebuilding the city to ensure that pedestrians never have to cross the street.

“We’re looking at putting everything someone would need on one side of the road,” said Peter Greenwitch, a top official in the city’s urban planning department. “Then no one would ever have to risk their life crossing the road, and drivers wouldn’t have to deal with the nuisance of looking both ways at traffic lights.”

Other motorists voiced their concern regarding the safety of themselves and their loved ones. Penelope Porter, a mother of two, believes that slow pedestrians put her and her children at risk while she is on the road.

“I am a busy woman,” said Porter. “I don’t have the time to wait while some elderly person crawls across the street. Those are the worst. They take so long to cross the street and I am seriously worried that I will hit one of them eventually and damage my car.”
Mayor Jim Weston thinks it’s time that Ottawa made some technological changes to catch up with the rest of the world.

“It’s not revolutionary,” he said. “Ottawa needs to be in tune with the now. In Europe, people don’t cross the streets anymore. They have automated capsules that fly you across the street. I saw it on TV.”

Weston went on to describe China’s complex underground pedestrian tunnel system. He believes that as soon as pedestrians get off the road, driving will become safer than ever before.

“We need to become more like China, and less like America,” he said.

Mansling agrees change is needed.

“It’s not the drivers that cause problems on the roads,” he said. It’s everyone else.”