Special Report: Walkable Streets

Another Senior Citizen Dies after Automobile Collision

Pedestrians are disproportionately at risk of injury and death on high-volume thoroughfares where the physics of high vehicle speeds means collisions are both harder to avoid and more likely to result in serious injury.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 07, 2014

A 79-year-old pedestrian has died after being struck by an automobile on Mohawk Road West at Penlake Court.

According to Hamilton Police Service, the man was crossing Mohawk Road southbound when he was struck by another 79-year-old man driving eastbound in a Ford Escape. The pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and died shortly afterwards.

A report in the Hamilton Spectator quoted Hamilton Emergency Services manager Carmen D'Angelo, who said the victim was "propelled a considerable distance" in the collision.

Witnesses are asked to contact Detective Constable Matt Hewko at 905-546-4755.

High Risk Street Design

At Penlake Court, Mohawk Road West is a suburban "stroad", a four-lane thoroughfare with a centre turn lane. It is lined on both sides by residential homes, though the houses on the south side face away from the street.

Penlake is a small court with just eight houses that extends north from Mohawk. It is approximately 90 metres east of the intersection of Mohawk and Rice Avenue, which is controlled by traffic lights.

This latest fatality is part of a depressing pattern. Pedestrians are disproportionately at risk of collision, injury and death on high-volume thoroughfares where the physics of high vehicle speeds means collisions are both harder to avoid and more likely to result in serious injury.

Likewise, Senior citizens are disproportionately represented among the victims of automobile collisions with pedestrians. Older pedestrians need more time to cross the street - especially a wide street like Mohawk - and tend to have slower reaction time to avoid sources of danger.

Complete Streets to Prevent Injury

In a 2012 Report on Pedestrian Deaths, Ontario Coroner argues that pedestrian collisions are preventable and that street design should reflect "the vulnerability of the human body".

The report recommends a "complete streets" approach to make streets "safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability or age." This approach entails reducing vehicle speed through both signage and design, increasing the number of crosswalks and reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians with bumpouts and islands.

The kinetic energy of a vehicle is an exponential function of its speed. If a vehicle moving at 32 km/h collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian has a 5% chance of dying. At 48 km/h, the death risk rises to 45% and at 64 km/h, the death risk rises to 85%.

As a result, many cities around the world are adopting 30 km/h speed limits for most streets.

In Hamilton, we still engineer our streets for dangerous, illegal speeds and then chastise pedestrians to be more careful when predictable injuries occur.

Last month, RTH contributor Nicholas Kevlahan argued that it's time to regard Hamilton's streets as a design defect and issue a recall on our dangerous thoroughfares.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2014 at 09:31:10

Sad news indeed.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 07, 2014 at 09:57:55

When cycling around a neighborhood, you are moving slower, and more immersed in the surroundings. Thus as a result of cycling around the mountain for a good bunch of years, I saw several hair raising moments on Garth and on Mohawk where I thought a senior was going to get smoked by traffic. What I recall, especially from the closest scariest one I saw, was someone started crossing when it was safe, but failed to make it across before the next wave caught up.

That said, there are no details on what happened, so in this instance, it's certainly possible this man stepped out into traffic inappropriately. Speculation does no good. But yes the roads are wide and scary if you can't walk fast.

Drivers on that road are impatient, the whole time I lived on Mohawk Road there were so many horn honks just because people pulling out of their driveways. End of April, my knee healed enough, the very first day I jumped on the bike to visit the post office 1km away on Garth; didn't get halfway before a driver swore at me out their window because they had to pass me. People are rude. I had a sick feeling someone would be hit, my intuition was correct.

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By Choice of word (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2014 at 09:27:25

Why do you constantly choose to use the word "Citizen." This story is about the death of a human being and shouldn't be politicized as such. Make me think I live in revolutionary France or something.

Very sorry to hear about yet another tragedy.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2014 at 11:11:07 in reply to Comment 101140

In the context of this article, "citizen" is part of the term "senior citizen", i.e. a human being over the age of 65 and a member of a demographic that is disproportionately at risk of being injured and killed while walking.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2014 at 09:56:52 in reply to Comment 101140

Why do you constantly choose to use the word "Citizen."

The term used is "senior citizen". It's hardly a personal choice of the author's ... "senior citizen" is the default term used in Canada for, well, senior citizens. Would you rather Ryan wrote "persons of elderliness"?

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By why not just (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2014 at 14:05:43 in reply to Comment 101142

Why not just use the term "senior" or drop the title and refer to them by their age?

THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD.

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By growup (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2014 at 11:33:47 in reply to Comment 101231

This is the place where a mature person would go, "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice that." Instead of digging in deeper.

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