Elderly man loses out in vehicle-pedestrian conflict on Elm St.

City staff have come up with a solution to unsafe crosswalks dotting the city … get rid of them.
Supervisor of Roads and Transportation David White will stand before council Monday to recommend “the removal of the pavement markings at existing Courtesy Pedestrian Crossings (17 in total including the one in front of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital where an elderly pedestrian was struck and killed in September).”
Instead, White urges council to approve the installation of additional Pedestrian Ahead signs for advance warning.
What his report confirms is these crossings, assumed safe passages by those attempting to cross the street, are nothing more than “courtesy crossings.”

How’s that for a feeling of comfort. The report stresses, “motorists only have a moral obligation to stop for pedestrians.”


Elm Street crosswalk

And you thought it was safe to proceed smartly across the roadway.
But wait, this next passage wins bafflegab-of-the-year award.
“Some drivers may choose to yield to pedestrians while others may not, creating both vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-vehicle conflicts.”
An 82-year-old pedestrian was killed at an assumed safe crossing because he came out on the short end of a vehicle-pedestrian conflict?
No doubt that will bring comfort and closure to the family of Harold Hill.
In a report to be presented to council Monday, treasurer Bill Day paints a red swath across the 2009 budget with his monitoring report detailing the city’s fiscal picture up to the end of September.
You know it’s bad when Day advises, “all city departments and boards to incur expenditures only where such are essential to the provision of approved services levels for the balance of 2009.”
In other words, the treasurer is forecasting a grim tale of the tape as council and staff prepare to tangle with the 2010 budget.
Day estimates an operating deficit of $780,000 and remember we still have three months to go before the final 2009 accounting.
Culprits in the hefty shortfall include: a $200,000 shortfall in investment income; Ontario Disability Support Program deficit of $500,000; increased costs and reduced revenues to the tune of a $260,000 shortage in fleet, transit and roads operations.
So, from here on it it’s essential expenditures only and a careful monitoring of all budgets.
Deputy Police Chief Darryl Pinnell advises Mayor Cliff Barwick and council that while the Police Services Board supports all community events, the city has to be aware of the financial implications of policing these activities.
According to Pinnell, that figure is in the range of $6,500, or more than eight per cent of the police overtime budget for 2009.
He advises the increasing number of special events, many with beer tents and the like, may be sources of revenue for organizers but they are a drain on police resources and the costs associated with policing these festivals and activities “are being borne indirectly by the taxpayers of the city.”
As such, Pinnell suggests the city “should consider a policy whereby additional policing costs are included in the permit application and approval process.”
As they should be.
By 1 p.m. on Oct. 19, the city was in possession of the police report detailing the events at the crosswalk in front of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital that led to the death of Harold Hill.
That evening during former mayor Janet Golding’s deputation to city council about crosswalk safety, city officials made it clear they were still awaiting the report in question.
So who has it and why is the information contained in that report not being made available to mayor and all members of council?
The powers-to-be dealing with parks and recreation matters at city hall have no problems allowing the T-J to profile newcomer Robert Lilbourne, the recently-hired supervisor of recreational facilities, and yet when environmental services brought on board Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, we were told in no uncertain terms she was off limits.
Is there not a standard policy for such media requests?
Were director John Dewancker and committee chairman Ald. Tom Johnston not equally impressed with their new hire?
Was there not a desire to introduce her to the community and showcase the qualifications that made her such an important addition to city staff?
Speaking of which, what is her background, why was she chosen over other candidates and, in fact, is she still at her desk or is she on leave?
Why the differing approaches to those deemed good enough to join the team?

“Now we might as well make a manufacturing museum in St. Thomas because of the loss of the industry.”

Fred Sinclair, CAW Local 2168 president, following the announcement a week ago of the closure of the St. Thomas Ford Assembly Plant in September, 2011.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

5 thoughts on “Elderly man loses out in vehicle-pedestrian conflict on Elm St.


    The term “vehicle-pedestrian conflict” is not just inaccurate; more troubling it serves to dehumanize the victim. Rather than say that a female driver struck and killed a pedestrian, municipality’s coin the phrase “vehicle-pedestrian conflict” to describe the same event.

    There was no conflict involving a vehicle and a pedestrian. It was the “driver of the vehicle” (not a vehicle) who was involved in the tragic death (not conflict) of a pedestrian, known to friends and family as Mr. Harold Hill.

    The term “vehicle-pedestrian conflict” is a psychological variant of moral disengagement. It fosters disassociation from guilt, displaces responsibility and in my opinion the use of the term is desplorable. It should be struck from the lexicon of city hall before they start next to label the dead victims as “collateral damage”.

    The city wants to get rid of the “courtesy crossings”? Ah there’s another term; guess it’s more palatable than calling them “not legal crosswalks” and the skilful choice of the word courtesy makes it appear that someone is somehow doing someone lease a favour by painting two white lines across a street.

    Switching gears, the driver was not charged with any wrongdoing and evidently the city has no responsibility because the “vehicle-pedestrian conflict” occurred in a “courtesy crossing”; that only leaves the victim. Are we then to believe it is the victim’s fault?

    One pedestrian is killed every day on Canada’s roads. So far this year, on Canada’s roads there have been 2,559 deaths and 171,345 injuries.

    Proper pedestrian crosswalks located in our city at strategic locations such as the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital on Elm Street should be a “no-brainer”.


    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


  2. Bill:
    I await with interest tomorrow’s council meeting to see if our elected officials pick up on the language of this report. The examples I quoted were the most crass of many that allow city staff to hide behind charts, tables and bullshit-baffles-brains to dodge any responsibility whatsoever. Ian


  3. Ian,

    Speaking of bullshit, I would draw your attention to the link of the city council minutes from October 13th, when city council in its infinite stupidity voted unanimously to pass a by-law for a “lease free” dog park to the tune of $35,000. Certainly THAT is far more important than the safety of the citizens of St. Thomas.

    Click to access 6841.pdf

    So rather than step up and take the lead and bear some responsibility, it is easier for council to remove any “evidence” of problems, not to mention Deaths – ensuring that over time, all will be forgotten. Sorry, for our family it will never be forgotten. We have been cheated from having our father with us any longer and his memory has been cheated by having the entire event “erased” which I’m sure will make everyone on city council sleep better at night … must be nice.

    So now our father is reduced to being a “conflict between a vehicle and a pedestrian”? What Crap, I can imagine how different this would be if it had been one of THEIR family members, a pregnant woman or a child in a stroller.

    Its no wonder people shoot up institutions in the United States.
    Rest assured there will be a number of letters forthcoming.


  4. Steve: As Bill noted in his comment, this is nothing short of moral disengagement on the part of staff and city council. And, I remind that all members of council have known about the unsafe nature of these crosswalks for some time and have chosen to sit on their hands. Ian



    When I asked the city how much they spent annually on consultants, I received a response from city clerk Wendell Graves stating the city spent $15,900.00 in 2008 on Consulting Fees and spent $14,526.41 in 2007 on Consulting Fees.

    To say that the numbers struck me as ridiculous is an understatement.

    When I queried further, I received a different response, “the City does not maintain a specific ledger account for all consulting fees.” The costs are “assigned to the specific project.” In other words, nobody knows how much we spend in total annually on consulting fees and nobody cares enough to be bothered to find out.

    The numbers are captured in individual projects but there is no interest in tracking the aggregate number of taxpayer dollars spent on consultants. Well if you don’t track it, there is no likelihood you can improve it, and no chance that you will be asked to justify it.

    I’d guess the cost to city taxpayers for consultants is a number in the six figure range. Ask about improving financial process and controls and you’ll be told the status quo has served us well. The fact that we are bleeding red is a bleeding shame.


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