‘If we’re not shooting for Vision Zero, we’re just saying it’s okay for people to die’: Walk urges greater road safety

Click to play video: 'Parents of Edmonton pedestrian killed in crosswalk push for safer streets'
Parents of Edmonton pedestrian killed in crosswalk push for safer streets
WATCH ABOVE: More than two years after their son died in a pedestrian crash, the parents of David Finkelman are continuing their push to make Edmonton's streets safer. They say there have been changes but there's still a long way to go. Julia Wong reports from the Vision Zero Walk – Apr 23, 2016

More than two years after their son was killed in a pedestrian crash, the parents of David Finkelman continue their push to make Edmonton roads safer.

On Saturday, Steve Finkelman and Jane Cardillo attended the fifth annual Vision Zero Walk, Run and Ride event at Concordia University. About 150 people gathered at the event to raise awareness about traffic safety.

In January 2014, 27-year-old David Finkelman was crossing Whyte Avenue in a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle turning left. He later died in hospital. The female driver who struck him was sentenced to a two-month license suspension and $2,000 fine.

READ MORE: Agony and pain: Edmonton doctor sees the other side of pedestrian-vehicle collisions

“[The last two years have been] very difficult. They say the worst possible thing that can happen to a parent is to lose a child,” Finkelman said.
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“From the moment those two police officers showed up at the door, our life just shattered. What we’ve gone through is just something we don’t want anybody else to go through.”

Finkelman said he and Cardillo became advocates because of the overwhelming need to improve traffic safety.

READ MORE: Lights installed at busy downtown Edmonton crosswalk

“Every morning if you commute, every evening, you probably see it all the time – these twisted chunks of metal. What are people thinking? Where is their attention? You have to pay attention when you’re driving a car – every time you see something, every time you hear something – because these are preventable,” he said.

“If we can raise awareness a little bit more and say to people ‘hey, slow down or take a look around you, be kind to the pedestrians and the motorists who you see around you’, maybe there will be a change,” Cardillo said.

However, she said there is still a long way for the city to go.

“I’m hoping, with Vision Zero the city comes up with traffic calming measures that seem to have worked in places like Sweden and New York City, raised crosswalks are one thing they’re doing. In other places they’ve got lights that turn red on all four corners and pedestrians walk so cars don’t move,” she said.

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READ MORE: Edmonton police search for SUV in connection with hit and run at bus stop

The event was re-named the Vision Zero Walk, Run and Ride this year. Vision Zero is the city’s new road safety strategy that aims to see zero fatalities and serious injuries on the road through engineering, education, enforcement, evaluation and engagement initiatives.

“The whole point of Vision Zero is really to make people wake up and pay attention. Can you get to zero? I don’t know. The point is, if it’s not zero then what is the number? Is it our son? Is it your daughter? Your mother? Your father?,” Finkelman said.

“If we’re not shooting for Vision Zero, we’re just saying it’s okay for people to die.”

Laura Theu, senior research coordinator for the city’s Office of Traffic Safety, said Vision Zero is the only ethical goal for the city.

“There is no other right goal. We don’t want to lose anyone,” she said.

“We all need to ask ourselves, what can I do to contribute to Vision Zero? Whether it’s to take an extra look before I step out onto that crosswalk, whether it’s using my hand signals when I’m riding my bike, following the rules of the road as a driver…without us doing our part, we’ll never achieve Vision Zero.”

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Theu said the long-term goal of safe streets is complex and multi-faceted, and she is urging for patience.

“It takes engineering. It takes education. It takes road users doing their part, obeying the laws, following the rules, safer road design – it takes a lot of different stakeholders to make this work,” she said.

“Changing infrastructure in the city takes a long time and changing road user behaviour means changing the culture of traffic safety and that takes a long time.”

Meanwhile, Cardillo said her son’s death, and its impact, will stay with her.

“You learn to live with the loss. There’s never going to be closure. As a grief counsellor we saw said, closure is something that’s restricted to Ziploc bags. People who have gone through something like this never have complete closure,” she said.

“David, and his death, is always on my mind in some ways. This is one way we can help.”

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