This year, the Halifax Regional Municipality is taking a different approach to its annual crosswalk safety campaign: instead of telling residents what to do, they’re asking how to do it.
Previously, the HRM has promoted crosswalk safety through its Crosswalk Safety Awareness Day and through broadcast, print and online advertising campaigns.
“What we’ve found was that, after four years, the engagement level was not really any broader or deeper and it certainly wasn’t sustained past Crosswalk Safety Day,” said Bruce DeBaie, director of communications for the municipality.
DeBaie said the HRM is looking for public ideas that focus on awareness or innovation. Innovation ideas will need to be feasible, considering the funding limits.
“We’re not saying there’s a specific limitation on things. We’re trying to encourage people to come up with ideas that are truly feasible first because otherwise it’s just a great idea that can’t be done,” DeBaie said.
Up to 25 different proposals will be chosen by a panel of judges to receive funding. The municipality is offering four amounts of $5,000, six amounts of $2,500 and 15 amounts of $1,000.
Due to municipal funding regulations, proposals must be made by a registered non-profit, charitable or social organization. Any individuals who have ideas will have to team up with an approved group, DeBaie said.
It will be up to the winning organizations to implement their ideas.
The best route to safety?
There have many been disagreements between safety advocates and the municipality on how to best improve safety measures. For example, last year the municipality and crosswalk safety advocates were at odds over the use and effectiveness of crosswalk flags.
From January to September of this year, just over 60 per cent of 131 pedestrian/vehicle collisions occurred at crosswalks.
Ella Dodson, a lawyer who works with pedestrian safety advocacy group Walk ‘n Roll Halifax, said the most effective way to improve crosswalk safety is to ease vehicle congestion and make roads more pedestrian-oriented in high traffic areas.
“They’ve been having these sorts of campaigns for a while,” she said. “The real answer is, if you really want crosswalks to be safer then you slow traffic down, and you make the road available and visible to the people that are cycling or walking.”
Dodson said she’s not convinced the amounts awarded by the municipality will be enough to spark any real change in crosswalk safety.
“We can have street decorations, but that’s not really addressing the issue,” she said, adding she thinks larger, structural changes are required to make the region safer for pedestrians. These include narrowing roads and making public transportation more accessible.
Dodson said she probably won’t be submitting any proposals to the campaign, as she doesn’t have the time to implement and maintain a safety measure on any given crosswalk.
Those interested are asked to submit proposals through the online submission form.
Submissions are open until Jan. 3.