Friday, June 19, 2009

Canadian mayor defends comments about disabled people not crossing the street

From The Gazette in Montreal:

Dollard des Ormeaux Mayor Ed Janiszewski raised a few eyebrows last week when he said disabled people shouldn't be crossing busy city streets, such as Sources Blvd.

The mayor was responding to a question about whether crosswalk signals give pedestrians enough time to cross busy boulevards.

"Anybody, not just the disabled, who can't cross a street safely in the 30 seconds allotted with the crosswalk signals, shouldn't be crossing the street," Janiszewski, 74, said Friday, when asked to comment about a radio interview he did June 11 with CBC Daybreak over the length of crosswalk signals on his territory.

In the interview, Janiszewski made the comment about the disabled when asked about the length of the crosswalk signals on Sources Blvd. which, at 30-seconds, can make it difficult for the disabled to cross.

"If a person is that handicapped, perhaps they shouldn't be walking across Sources," he said during Monique Lacombe's weekly Daybreak feature called Street-Whys.

In a separate interview June 12, Janiszewski, who has been mayor of Dollard sine 1984, added that a solution can be found to the problem some people may have with crossing Sources Blvd., which was the site of a pedestrian death last month.

On May 14, 80-year-old Dragica Malecic of Roxboro was killed when she was hit by a truck crossing Sources Blvd. as she left Rideau Memorial Gardens. Police said the weather may have been a factor in the accident as heavy rain made visibility difficult.
Janiszewski said he received no complaints following his on-air interview. "Nobody called to complain - but they know me," Janiszewski said. "People know that I may be abrupt.

Lewis Poulin, a community activist who often deals with pedestrian safety, said that in the wake of the pedestrian death on Sources Blvd. in May, "it is now, more than ever, important to ensure that public officials provide the highest quality advice for pedestrians of all ages that use Sources Blvd.

In an email sent to DDO city hall, Poulin questioned whether the mayor's views were in line with city council and the police. He said Janiszewski's radio interview brought up many issues, including whether waiting on a median in the centre of the road is safe and whether infrastructure services should be for all.

"The mayor seemed to suggest that if some citizens had difficulty crossing Sources Blvd. in the allotted time, then maybe those citizens should not be crossing Sources," Poulin said. "Since I understood as a citizen that public infrastructure was provided for all citizens, can you provide . . . clearer information on who should or should not be using pedestrian infrastructure in DDO?"

Janiszewski said his council was presented with a petition about one year ago asking that the length of time at the crosswalks on Sources Blvd. be extended.

"That went to our traffic committee, which decided against extending the time to a minute because you just can't hold up 10,000 cars for one or two people," he said.

"But there could be a solution, such as creating an island in the middle of Sources Blvd. where people could safely wait for the light to change," he added.