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'It's devastating': Bike Calgary responds after uptick in fatal crashes

Last Updated Apr 6, 2021 at 7:28 pm MDT

A surprising stat from Calgary streets in 2020 when fewer people were driving due to the pandemic, crash fatalities were up 26 percent compared to 2019. Cottonbro/Pexels

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A surprising stat from city streets in 2020 when fewer people were driving due to the pandemic, crash fatalities were up 26 per cent compared to 2019.

During a Calgary Police Commission meeting, Rebecca Davidson with the Bureau of Service and Community Support explained pedestrian-involved, fatal collisions were also slightly higher than in previous years.

“2020 was the only year on record with two triple-fatality collisions,” she said. “Vulnerable road users were also tragically lost where we had four pedestrians, two cyclists and five motorcyclists — accounting for 46 per cent of our total fatal collisions.”

Davidson said 17 of the 24 crashes were due in part to unsafe speed, while the number of fatal collisions involving alcohol or drugs were significantly lower than in 2019.

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Bike Calgary policy director Shiv Ruparell says it’s devastating to hear about these deaths, adding this speaks to the fact we need to make our city more walkable.

“I think you see that in city’s around the world over the pandemic, where you know they’re realizing ‘Well hold on, we’ve retrofitted our cities for cars’,” he said. “Now that more people are out and about they want to go out for a walk, they want to ride their bike from point A to point B, the infrastructure really isn’t there to support them to do that safely.”

Ruparell suggests in areas where fatal collisions are more likely to occur the city should reduce speed limits, widen sidewalks and use more reflective paint at crosswalks.

He also says new infrastructure for those who don’t drive is needed, especially at a time when we’re trying to diversify Calgary’s economy, and attract tech talent and other companies.

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“The folks that we talk to who are moving here for those reasons, they don’t necessarily want to live in a city where it’s dangerous just to cross the road, you know, or they have to drive everywhere,” he said.

Meantime Davidson said traffic safety requests did increase in 2020 — jumping 27 per cent from the previous year.

“This may not be surprising as walkers, the bike boom, and the general increase in people being outside and a lower tolerance for people not abiding by rules probably contributed to people calling for requests to assist them with their community concerns,” she said.