A driver with the Edmonton Transit Service has been charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian after the bus he was driving hit a woman in the city’s downtown core on Thursday.
Police said officers were called to Jasper Avenue and 109 Street at about 2 p.m. after someone reported that a pedestrian had been struck by a bus.
“It was reported to police that an ETS bus was travelling westbound on Jasper Avenue, when it began to make a left-hand turn onto 109 Street,” police said in a news release Thursday night.
“As the bus continued turning left, it struck a 32-year-old woman who was walking across 109 Street in a marked crosswalk.
“It’s not known at this time whether the complainant was walking westbound or eastbound across 109 Street.”
Police said the woman was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital. They said she suffered minor injuries and was later released from hospital.
While the cause of the crash remains under investigation, blind spots on transit buses have been a concern in Edmonton for years — in October 2016, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a bus on 87 Avenue and 169 Street because the driver couldn’t see the pedestrian.
Steve Bradshaw, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 that represents ETS drivers, watched surveillance video of Thursday’s crash and said visibility could have been a factor.
“We note from our viewing of the video that there may be some difficulty for the operator, in terms of the sun in his eyes or in terms of the victim being in a blind spot on the bus,” Bradshaw said, adding there’s a large A-pillar along the side of the corner of Edmonton transit buses where the driver sits.
He explained the pillar contains a strut that supports the windows, roof and entire bus structure, but is surrounded by surplus fiberglass, rubber and aluminum that blocks the driver’s view.
“It appears to us that those pedestrians were directly in that blind spot,” Bradshaw said, adding the casing around the strut could be made smaller.
“This pillar that exists there is this big, and it doesn’t need to be,” he said, holding his hands about a foot apart. “It needs to be about this big — that’s it,” he added, holding up a piece of the metal strut, which fit in his palm.
“If we can get that change, get our buses designed differently, it’ll save lives. Happily, this one was not a fatality. It could easily have been.”
Bradshaw said the ETS employee involved in Thursday’s collision is an experienced driver who is traumatized by what happened. He was not able to say if the driver remains on the job or is on leave.
Global News reached out to Mayor Amarjeet Sohi’s office to ask about blind spots and transit bus design. Before entering politics, Sohi was a bus driver with the city.
The mayor’s office declined the interview request and instead sent a statement, saying in part, “At this stage, this is a police matter so we want to leave this investigation with EPS.”
Adrienne Cloutier with City of Edmonton communications said the city takes safety seriously and any collision is concerning.
“Events like this are difficult for everyone involved as well as all Edmontonians. Our thoughts are with the pedestrian and her family, our employees and the broader community who may be affected by this incident,” she said. “Each collision goes through a thorough investigation process to identify root causes and determine if the collision was preventable.
“If a collision is deemed preventable, the city’s performance management procedures apply and corrective action may be taken, up to and including termination of employment.
“As part of that process, the union is engaged and supports the operator. Operators are all trained in safe and defensive driving practices, which include understanding blind spots and how to look around them.”
Cloutier said ETS is working with Edmonton police as it investigates the collision, and the city wasn’t able to comment further.
Under Alberta traffic laws, failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk will result in an $810 fine and four demerit points.