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August 18, 2017
February 21, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Our streets could be safer

Written by Jeff Samsonow

We just accept that people will drive dangerously and that our roads aren’t built to protect people from injury.

Here’s the latest person to die on Edmonton streets. She got a few paragraphs in the news.

You might have missed the first person to die in Edmonton traffic this year. It was also a very short story. The result of that crash was a charge under the Traffic Safety Act, which means an appearance in court to determine a fine and, possibly, a driver’s licence suspension.*

News from the long weekend also reported on an “enforcement event” where Edmonton Police caught 100 people every hour speeding, driving without paying attention and committing any number of other actions that put people in danger (including themselves and any passengers in their vehicles).

These events regularly get covered in local news, often focused on one or two of the more outrageous elements. We’re hearing more about a ferret, and less about 100 people putting lives in danger every hour (100 people that just happened to be caught, mind you).

We so completely accept these kinds of acts on our roads that our policing budget is tied to lots of people getting tickets and being fined. We need people to drive poorly. And now with a drop in the economy, that puts the Edmonton Police Service budget in the red.

A lot of things need to change for us to stop accepting death and injury on city streets as normal.

Locally, you can support groups like Paths for People and the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society (EBC) in their efforts to make Edmonton streets safer for people walking, biking and driving. You can also get active in your neighbourhood’s community league, and any other smaller groups which may be taking on local issues that need addressing. The biggest thing we can do to save lives and prevent injuries is change how our roads are designed, by prioritizing the most vulnerable users (think about children, seniors and those with disabilities).

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News media can also help. Using people-first language can humanize the victims of Edmonton’s streets and change how people hear the stories.

Instead of victim, say person hit by a driver. Instead of pedestrians, say people walking. Instead of driver, say person driving. Instead of cyclist, say person riding their bike. (Instead of person/people say man/woman/child, whatever specific might fit the story.)

Until we all have self-driving cars, someone isn’t hurt or killed by a car, they’re hurt or killed in a crash by someone driving that vehicle. And they are crashes or collisions, not accidents. Calling them accidents keeps us in this place where we accept things are out of our control.

The words we use can be powerful tools.

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Very much connected, we are in the midst of shifting culture with City of Edmonton planners, engineers and others who design and create the traffic systems we use. As councillors in the latest story on attempts to make Edmonton streets safer mention, they need to hear about the worst places to walk and get around. Let them know!

(If you don’t know who your city councillor is, take a look at the latest ward map, and then you’ll be able to know who to contact about the worst places to move around your neighbourhood.)


Safe injection needed

Edmonton’s Police Chief submitted a column to the Edmonton Journal about safe injection sites and he makes one point multiple times: “Edmonton needs a safe and supportive facility for drug addicts“.

This is an issue that’s been building in Edmonton since last year. The results of what safe injection can do to save lives and improve many health and safety issues is well-documented.


Stinks and spills

What’s that smell? Depending on where you live in Edmonton, it might be your sewers. Complaints are down from the beginning of the decade though. If your neighbourhood still stinks, it might be a few years before the smells completely go away as the City tries to improve the sewer systems.

There was an oil spill in Strathcona County at the end of last week.

Most newsrooms were calling this a spill of “oil condensate” which is not a term I was familiar with (but does appear to be what Enbridge called it in their media releases). A few newsrooms did reference this more directly as an oil spill, referring to the cleanup of light crude oil (condensate).

I don’t have a background in all things oil, so I had to look up what “oil condensate” was. It would be helpful for newsrooms to be clear about what we’re talking about in these cases for those not familiar with industry names for oil products. If stories aren’t clear, then an oil spill might not be seen as just that by people glancing through news reports.


Crop those photos

An Edmonton doctor has been suspended for professional misconduct. That’s the story. But the Edmonton Journal originally used an image from their files that didn’t fit. Then the story had the possibility to be taken the wrong way by someone looking at the photo (did the premier have something to do with this? is the doctor connected to provincial departments like Children’s Services?)

That’s the trouble you’ll get into if you’re Googling people in your stories (or searching your newsroom’s photo archive) and proper steps aren’t taken to crop photos to ensure they’re relevant.

There’s no connection to the premier, or provincial politics, on this story, so if the photo was to be used, it should have been cut to show just the doctor. Otherwise you get the implication that the NDP premier is connected to a doctor who’s been found to cross ethical lines.

And once the photo was removed from the story (rightfully so) a correction or editor’s note needs to be included. It’s not going to help wipe the memory from the search bots, but it’s the right move. (As of this writing, there’s still a disclaimer at the end of the story that attempts to explain the connection to the premier, likely a holdover from when the photo was used. That’s even more confusing?)


Welcome to Indigenous Students

Concordia University of Edmonton is launching a new Indigenous strategy.  This will include a new Indigenous Centre on campus and a push to more than double the number of Indigenous students in the next five years.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Edmonton’s Indigenous history, you can take a free online course from the University of Alberta starting this spring.


At City Hall

Edmonton City Council meets today, beginning at 9:30 a.m. See the agenda here. You can watch or listen live through the City’s meeting streaming service.


* Updated February 26, 2017: The lead item on road safety was updated to more accurately reflect the penalties the driver in Edmonton’s first traffic fatality faces. It was originally stated that they received a speeding ticket but, as they were said to be going more than 50 km/h over the posted speed limit, they actually receive a summons to court for determination of a fine and any licence suspension.