Jaevion Nelson | Prioritise pedestrian safety too
Pedestrians continue to constitute one of the main categories of road fatalities but there is seemingly little to no attention paid to road safety for these road users.
In 2022, 488 people were reportedly killed in road fatalities with 74 per cent of them being male and 26 per cent female. In December alone there were 46 road fatalities, including 11 motorcyclists and 11 pedestrians (24 per cent) – 487 people died on the roads in 2021.
Between 2010 and 2018, of the 2,995 road fatalities, a total of 841 pedestrians were killed. That’s 28 per cent of all deaths! For the period 2010 to 2014, of all the categories of fatalities recorded, pedestrians had the highest of any group for each year. Between 2015 and 2018, pedestrians were the second highest as road fatalities among motorcyclists increased.
Given the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to expect that road safety discussions should be more concerned about pedestrians and their safety too. It is worrying that every so often we talk about road fatalities and the focus is almost always about motor vehicles and motorcycles, though pedestrians consistently constitute a significant portion of the total road fatalities each year. The conversation cannot be only or largely about motorists. The actions taken by the authorities to improve our roads must ensure they are designed to secure the safety of all road users.
Today, as you go about your daily business, look around and observe how right across the country sidewalks are hardly maintained where they do exist. Pedestrian lights are few and sometimes not working for months. Pedestrian crossings are few and far between and existing ones are hardly maintained (in some areas) even where you have heavy pedestrian traffic. Let’s not even talk about how the roads aren’t even built with people with disabilities in mind. Do you remember that accident involving a JUTC bus along Golding Avenue in Papine in 2015?
As educator Gavin Myers said, “We haven’t moved with any alacrity to deal with pedestrian protection anywhere in Jamaica. It is a scary place to walk. And as someone who has had to move around impaired, it is so much worse for them.”
A poignant example of the seemingly cavalier attitude, by the authorities, to pedestrian safety is the busy Half-Way Tree area. The pedestrian light in the vicinity of the Transportation Centre on Eastwood Park Road has not been working for several months. Pedestrians, including students, the elderly, and mothers with their young ones, are therefore left to fend for themselves as motorists blaze towards their destination. Think as well about the busy intersection by Devon House where Hope Road, Trafalgar Road, and Waterloo Avenue meet. Pedestrians – some of them Ardenne High students walking from school to Half-Way Tree and parents and their children going to the historic site – are forced to time vehicles, hoping they go slow enough or that a motorist will stop so they can run across the road safely. It’s quite surprising that at that intersection, we haven’t had frequent issues there, especially with how indisciplined motorists tend to be these days.
As previously stated in an article in The Gleaner, “We are too lax when it comes to engendering greater safety on the roads for those who commute by foot … It is truly disheartening to know that despite lots of major infrastructure projects over the years, pedestrian safety does not seem to be a big concern for decision-makers across successive governments, as roads are still being constructed without requisite features. Proper sidewalks and pedestrian lights and crossings are often non-existent or many, many metres apart. Utility poles and signage are still being erected or installed on sidewalks and obstructing pedestrians.”
It’s time we ensure that pedestrian safety becomes more of a priority. It shouldn’t be that difficult to ensure the right thing is done. Is there one parliamentarian (or two) who will stand up and champion the needs of those who traverse our busy streets across the country by foot?
Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, economic and social justice and inclusive-development advocate. Send feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @jaevionn.