My fellow Pedestrians, thank you for sharing your time with me tonight.
The subjects I want to discuss with you, peace and footwear, are both timely and important. Timely, because I’ve reached a decision which offers a new hope. And important because there’s a very big decision that you must make for yourselves. This subject involves the most basic duty that any pedestrian or road user must share.
Tonight, I want to explain to you what this debate is all about and why I’m convinced that the measures submitted are necessary, responsible, and deserving of your support. And I want to offer hope for the future.
But first, let me say what the debate is not about. It is not about rights of way. I know that in the last few years you’ve been bombarded with calls for more restrictions and traffic signals. The trouble with all these measures is that they tell us little about the kind of options pedestrians and road users need or the benefits and security and freedom that a mutual effort will buy for us.
What seems to have been lost in all this debate is the simple truth of how sticking to rigid principles is not the best way forward. It isn’t done by deciding to simply say that those on foot take precedence before all others. Those loud voices that are occasionally heard charging that Government should solve problems by throwing money at them are nothing more than noise based on ignorance. We start by considering what must be done to maintain safety for all against possible threats to personal security. Then a strategy for strengthening safe passage for all must be agreed upon. And, finally, our on foot strategies must be evaluated to see what is necessary to protect against all the threats we pedestrians can and do face in our daily round. The cost of achieving these ends is minimal, and may be attained by engaging brains, not the public purse.
The road safety policy of British Columbia is based on a simple premise: No-one should start fights. We should never be an aggressor nor victim. We must maintain our attention spans in order to deter and defend against being run over or punched in the mouth – therefore to save unnecessary burdens on our health services and dentists bills.
Since the dawn of the road, we’ve sought to reduce the risk of collision by paying attention and by keeping to the sidewalk. “Attention” means simply this: making sure anyone who thinks they can just barge thoughtlessly about concludes that the risks to them outweigh any potential gain. Once they understand that, they’ll get home uninjured. We maintain the right of way through our strengths; entitlement, rudeness and distraction only invite a smack round the ear or free flying lesson off the sea wall. By engaging good manners and not dithering when crossing the road we make life simpler for others, reducing personal friction and preventing conflict. This strategy of safety has not changed. It still works. But what it takes to maintain our safety has changed. It took one kind of attitude to prevent getting flattened when we had far more space than any other province; it takes another kind now that the drivers, for example, have more distractions. Now, this is not to say that car users are planning to run us down. Nor do I believe accidents are inevitable – quite the contrary. But what must be recognized is that our safety is based on being prepared to meet all challenges.
There was a time when we depended on crossings and certain right of way conventions, because, with the society of that day, any conflict would have arisen by jaywalking. Well, this is a different world, and our reactions must be based on recognition and awareness of the distractions possessed by other road users in this unclear age. We can’t afford to believe that we can fixate on our cellphones without looking where we are going, or that others will automatically give way because you, and only you, believe that you have the right of way. There are daily road casualties because of the mistaken belief that pedestrians, no matter what they are doing, or how slowly they want to move are immune from being knocked over. We must do what we can to avoid being turned into bloody smears. But if distracted by that funny Lolcats post, or who has been saying what to whom on twitter we become ill-prepared to cross the road. Had we been better prepared, our bodies might have been better protected.
During the past thirty years, the character of traffic has changed – changed in a way that concerns us all. For years vehicles have been improving with better brakes and safety features, but this will not help you when the Mark Twelve Supersport Supercar you step in front of is being driven by a Mark One complete moron. They won’t stop their vehicles if both of you are checking out the hot chick (or guy, or cake, let’s not be judgemental) on Whatsapp. Now rules alone can be neither our defence or guarantor of safety. We must become more aware. Ready to give way and sidestep. To look left and right, if necessary, an I know how painful some of you might find this, to make and hold eye contact.
The introduction of small traffic islands has proven a challenge to many Canadian drivers, more so than their misunderstanding of how a 4-way junction works, and my fellow pedestrians failure to give them even the slightest courtesy or recognition. Far too many still step straight onto a crosswalk without consideration, or even recognise that there is someone else sharing that road space while they are taking that oh so important cell phone call about what theirr friend said about her friend’s puppy at that critical family visit, no, not that one, the one where your uncle said something inane that everyone else was up in arms about but is soo crucial that no one can remember what it was, that’s why I’m calling – thud! Then there are the Entitled cyclists who have right of way over everyone, no really they do, because anyone who gets closer than ten feet is automatically a Fascist, to be abused and gesticulated at in as threatening a manner as they can get away with. Because they are cyclists and are superior to everyone else on the road. So there.
These thumbnail sketches can only tell a small part of the story. l wish I could show you more without compromising our most sensitive sources and pictures of off duty Policemen laughing themselves senseless. But these are not images which will add to the debate. Indeed they simply serve to cloud the issue and detract from the fact that so many road users are slow, entitled and possibly even brain dead.
Some people may ask: Would waking up and showing a little courtesy to others lessen the casualty rate and lower blood pressure across the province and even Canada, perhaps even the world itself? Well, again, can we afford to believe it wouldn’t? Simply throwing our individual weight around like a wet towel at all and sundry to demonstrate our ‘rights’ has conclusively been shown not to be the answer. For too long the will of the entitled has driven how we behave towards each other and in so doing has been used to intimidate. This state of affairs must now end.
When I arrived here in 2007, I was appalled by what I found: Pedestrians that wouldn’t look before and while crossing busy junctions, simply stepping out into the middle of busy streets without the merest glance at what was coming toward them. The inevitable result of all this was poor safety, casualties and increased Emergency Services overtime spent picking bits of spare human off the asphalt before the Bears and Raccoons got to them.
There was a real question then about how well we could meet a crisis. And it is still obvious that we have to begin a major mental readjustment to ensure lower health service bills and reduce the pain and suffering to insurers. Notwithstanding of the mental trauma caused to those who witness what mayhem is wrought by inattention.
We have to move immediately to improve the basic alertness and simple businesslike functioning of our roads and sidewalks, so they can meet – and therefore help deter – a crisis. We have to make up for lost years of entitlement by moving forward with a long-term plan to ensure our people are looking where the fuck they are going at all times.
The solution is well within our grasp. But to reach it, there is simply no alternative but to continue this year, to engage the personal resources we need to preserve our safety and guarantee our freedom.
Now, thus far tonight I’ve shared with you my thoughts on the problems of road safety we must face together. Others have appeared before you on other occasions to describe the threat posed by other road users and have proposed steps to address that threat. But since the advent of increased traffic, acting like you own the bloody road has been increasingly just that; bloody.
Over the course of my observations, I’ve become more and more deeply convinced that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other road users by threatening their existence. Feeling this way, l believe we must thoroughly examine every opportunity for reducing tensions and for introducing greater stability into the strategic calculus on all sides.
One of the most important contributions we can make is, of course, to pay fucking attention you bozo, and particularly on foot. We should engaged all the time in constant negotiations other road users to bring about a mutual improvement in safety.
After careful consultation with my advisers, I believe there is a way. Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome threat of the stupid and entitled with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great society and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.
My fellow Pedestrians, tonight we’re launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. There will be risks, and results take time. But I believe we can do it. As we cross this threshold, l ask for your prayers and your support.
Thank you, good night, and God bless you.