The Duke of Data Simon Fraser University’s  Andy Yan has a compelling question which he shared on twitter~”what if we treated  the statistics of pedestrian, cyclists and automobile injuries and deaths like daily Covid 19 updates?

It’s an interesting thought~Would posting those numbers on a daily basis temper driver behaviour and have all users proceed with more caution? Would there be less injuries and less fatalities?And what exactly are those numbers?

We are now entering the danger months in Metro Vancouver for pedestrians of all ages. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) observes that November, December, and January are months when vehicle drivers  crash into pedestrians, with dusk being the worst time. Even more sobering 75 percent of pedestrians are being crashed into at intersections, with 57 percent of those crashes happening when the pedestrian actually was legally crossing and had the right of way.

Current data on injury is notoriously hard to get, but ICBC’s access to statistics is improving. The Coroner’s Service provides data on pedestrian deaths in British Columbia, and that includes people on roller skates or boards. Between 2010 and 2019 an average of 56 pedestrians a year died on British Columbia roads and streets. November had the highest average annual number of deaths at 7.4 per 100,000 population, followed by January with 6.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

Sadly, 28 percent of all pedestrian deaths in B.C.  happen in Vancouver and Surrey. Of those, fatalities 58 percent were male, and 59 percent were aged 50 years and older. People that were 70 years or older represented one-third of all fatalities.

That data shows the need to focus on reducing older adult pedestrian fatalities. From January to November 2019 there were no pedestrian deaths for children aged zero to nine, and two deaths of children 10  to 18 years of age. There were 29 pedestrian fatalities across the province from January to November 2019 for people aged 50 years and older.

The City of Vancouver Police Department provides data on their website on pedestrian, cyclist and vehicular and motorcycle fatalities. From 2014 to 2019, 51 pedestrians have died on Vancouver streets. In that same time period, two cyclists died, and there have been no cyclist fatalities in the last three years.

In the same last three years, 21 pedestrians died in the city.

That means an average of eight pedestrians a year die on Vancouver streets. We have already had six pedestrian deaths to October 6 of this year. Why is there not an outcry about this completely preventable loss of life?

You can take a look at the Vancouver Police Department’s table on Road User Fatalities below.

On a per capita basis, Vancouver has a worse record of killing pedestrians than the City of Toronto which is actively campaigning to reduce road violence.  A survey by ICBC in 2017 showed that nine out of 10 drivers worry about hitting a pedestrian at night, particularly in wet weather, while eight in 10 pedestrians don’t feel safe in those conditions.

The map below from the Vancouver Police Department shows where Vancouver fatal collisions occurred in 2019, with the red triangles showing where pedestrians died. Those fatalities are clustered along arterials and in the southeast quadrant of the city.

Metro Vancouver is unique in having dark, wet winter days and evenings without the reflectivity of snow. Add in dark clothing and umbrellas on the street, and it is difficult for vehicle drivers to see and vulnerable road users to be visible.

Surely it is time to have a serious discussion about stopping these needless pedestrian deaths in this city. That can be accomplished by lowering speed limits in residential areas  (as already mandated in an unanimous motion of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities) addressing  driver education, behaviour and inattention, creating better intersection visibility and better road design that limits speed on arterials.

In Vancouver eight  lives a year depends on this. Why can’t we step up?





  1. “Add in dark clothing and umbrellas on the street, and it is difficult for vehicle drivers to see and vulnerable road users to be visible.”

    I dispute this assumption based on my personal experience as a driver. I have found that if you are paying attention and scanning the road (and side of road) as one is supposed to when motoring, you can spot movement at least a half block away even on a dark, rainy night. Coupled with modern auto lights, which are so bright I think they are able to illuminate the universe’s dark matter, and there’s very few circumstances where “I couldn’t see that person” is a viable excuse.

    Try it and see for yourself (pun intended)

    1. Chris Keam wrote: “Coupled with modern auto lights, which are so bright I think they are able to illuminate the universe’s dark matter, and there’s very few circumstances where “I couldn’t see that person” is a viable excuse.”

      Actually, those very lights are part of the problem since they create a lot of glare that makes it hard to pick out dark details. Particularly in rainy conditions where the brightest part of the beam, directed downward, reflects off the wet pavement and right into your eyes. And most especially if you’re facing a driver using high beams to pierce the darkness – DON’T DO THAT!

      It’s easy to see pedestrians if they’re silhouetted by that light, but if they’re standing just to one side waiting to cross the road then it can be very problematic. Left turns are a special danger – a pedestrian can become invisible as the combined motions of walking and turning car conspire to hide the person behind the A-pillar. Drivers, bob your head left and right to make sure there’s nothing hidden there – and pedestrians, be especially wary because you may not be seen at all no matter how bright your clothing.

      Of course I agree that drivers need to be careful and use caution in these kinds of poor conditions. But pedestrians need to know that they can be a lot harder to see and must therefore be just as cautious. It usually takes two to make an accident, and you, as a driver or a pedestrian, can prevent one.

      1. If the onus isn’t on drivers and automakers for safety we will end up blaming pedestrians.

        Not sure I agree with your position on the headlights.

  2. This data tends to support my premise that bicycle helmet laws have no value and are probably even counter-productive. Cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver and growth has been substantial over the last decade. Yet the fatality trend line is definitely downward. That’s certainly not as a result of more people wearing the plastic hat. Hard numbers are hard to come by but my observation is that the proportion of people wearing helmets remains fairly steady in the 2/3 to 3/4 range. So there’s a lot more people cycling today without helmets than a decade ago. Meanwhile the police have all but stopped enforcement making the law nearly moot.

    On the other hand, safety in numbers is a real thing and helmet laws with strict enforcement only discourage those higher numbers. What else do we associate with helmet requirements? Only high risk contact sports, construction and motorcycles – which are 36 times more deadly than cycling. High cycling numbers also bring the political clout to build safer infrastructure in a virtuous cycle.

    I would also argue that bicycle helmet laws are detrimental to pedestrian safety. Every potential cyclists who is discouraged from riding and chooses to drive instead, for their own safety, is an additional threat to pedestrians.

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