COLUMN: Confusion reigns on North Battleford roads

By Colin McGarrigle
March 20, 2017 - 2:00pm

We all know the rules of the road are meant to be followed. Similarly, we all know not everyone follows those rules, as dictated by the SGI handbook. In North Battleford, civic leaders especially count on drivers to follow those rules explicitly. There is a foregone conclusion that because everyone “should” be following said rules, there is no need to provide guidance and protections from city leaders so that drivers and pedestrians are safe in the city.

There are two examples in this city where drivers should be following the rules, but they don’t or are confused as to what those rules are. Case number one is pedestrian safety. Case number two is uncontrolled intersections.

In the issue of pedestrian safety, drivers are obligated in this city to stop at uncontrolled intersections should a pedestrian want to cross the road. The SGI handbook states: “When approaching an intersection, you must yield the right of way to any pedestrians who are crossing the street. You must stop your vehicle before the crosswalk, which will either be painted on the road or be an imaginary extension of the sidewalk.”

That all sounds great in theory, besides maybe the whole “imaginary extension” thing, but reality is that drivers in North Battleford do not stop. I personally try to cross 100th St. a few times a day, and there has been only one or two occasions where drivers actually do yield. Nine times out of 10, I am making a mad dash across the road after watching several dozen vehicles zoom by with complete indifference at speeds well beyond the posted limit on that busy road.

BattlefordsNOW has spoken to Mayor Ryan Bater about the issue, and despite a poll where a full 86 per cent of our readers did not feel completely safe crossing the road, the mayor simply referred to the SGI manual. It’s true that our poll is not scientific, but it’s also true that unless people are crossing at a controlled intersection with lights, they do not feel safe. In the spring and summer, the city does paint some of those uncontrolled intersections with pedestrian marks, but it’s a free for all in the winter months, where there are no marks, and drivers have a harder time breaking on icy streets, if they actually do follow the rules.

However, in many other cities across Canada (Edmonton as an example) police actually tell drivers to not yield to pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled intersections, as it is more dangerous for those crossing. The theory being that while one driver in a left lane may yield for the pedestrian, the driver in the right lane may not see the pedestrian and continue to drive. Of course, there is an onus on pedestrians to be safe when crossing, but short of kindergarten-style hands out and neon jackets, it’s a gamble every time I have crossed a major road here.

With the issue of uncontrolled intersections, which there are many of in the city, it is obvious that many drivers do not know who to yield to. Again, the SGI handbook states: “At an intersection where there are no stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights or police directing traffic, and two vehicles arrive at the intersection at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left must yield the right of way to the driver of the vehicle on the right.”

Fair enough. But that never happens. People in this city seem to believe that if they are on a more major road, they have the right of way. Or at best, you will often see three or four vehicles stopped at an intersection where no one seems to know who goes first without a friendly wave. At worst, you will just see drivers fly along without slowing because of their belief they have the right of way. It’s again painfully obvious while there are rules in place, many don’t follow them or are ignorant to said rules.

If drivers always followed the rules, there would be no accidents, no need for Community Safety Officers, no need for vehicle insurance, and no need for demerit points. According to city leaders, there’s no need for crosswalks or controlled intersections either…. Because as we all know, drivers always follow the rules.

The city should take a much harder look at investing some tax dollars into ending some of this confusion, by way of installing yield signs at uncontrolled intersections, and by creating fully lighted pedestrian crosswalks at several major roadways. Because even though there are rules in place, we know we can’t always count on drivers to follow the rules, or we wouldn’t have accidents in the first place. The onus is on the city to provide a safe environment for its citizens. And I for one, would rather see a few dollars spent on ending the hazard, over covering a sad news story regarding a fatal accident.


Colin McGarrigle is the news director for battlefordsNOW.

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