Upcoming Walk and Be Seen Campaign 2017-2018: Neighbourhood Projects

by Westside Seniors Hub | 2017-05-10 10:03:09

In 2016, the Hub’s Access and Mobility Committee received a mini-grant from Vancouver Coastal Health to conduct a pilot project - Walk and Be Seen (WBS) from November 2016 to February 2017. Now completed, WBS promoted pedestrian visibility among seniors when walking in low-light conditions. Project participants received free visibility gear in exchange for feedback on its use. Their engagement in the project was remarkable! Check out the Final Report!

Now we are excited to announce that this interest in the health benefits of walking has resulted in a much bigger grant from the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program!  In May, the Hub will be launching “Walk and Be Seen Campaign 2017-2018: Neighbourhood Projects”. Organizations in the Lower Mainland can recruit senior volunteers to design projects for their neighbourhoods in return for free visibility gear, support from a Toolkit, and project feedback.

Why visibility?   

Statistics on pedestrian injuries and fatalities from collisions are shocking:  75% occur at intersections - 57% of those when the pedestrian has the right of way! Compared to their proportion of population, seniors suffer the most fatalities. Police most often hear “I just didn’t see him/her” from drivers at the scene of such accidents. As Committee members we knew we could have little impact on road design, traffic speeds, driver behaviours, or vehicular safety features, all factors that contribute to pedestrian vulnerability. But we could make seniors aware that dark clothing can increase pedestrians’ risk of not being seen by other road users.

What did we do?

The pilot project registered 132 participants who received free visibility gear - either a reflective cloth sash or LED slapband - in return for agreeing to wear their gear, tally their walks, and provide feedback. Those who agreed to online communication with WBS (82) received a weekly email newsletter for 18 weeks with information, encouragement and prizes. Others (50) tallied their walks on cards. All participants who completed the project were invited to respond to a feedback survey.

What did we learn?

The project revealed not only enthusiasm for free gear but genuine interest in promoting pedestrian visibility with reflective or light-emitting gear. Participants indicated that visibility is an issue easily understood. Wearing gear often resulted in conversations with friends and strangers about the invisibility of pedestrians who wear dark clothing.

When we learned that the number and rate of pedestrian fatalities in British Columbia has not shown a sustained downward trend in the last 18 years, we knew there was a need to reduce pedestrian vulnerability. Making a habit of wearing reflective or light-emitting gear takes time and the first step is awareness. Interestingly enough, data in the 20th century regarding seatbelt use as a safety precaution proved the need long before seatbelt legislation came into effect. Could wearing reflective or light-emitting gear become a habit akin to fastening a seatbelt in a vehicle?

Seniors can take the lead in their neighbourhoods! Please join the Walk and Be Seen Campaign 2017-2018: Neighbourhood Projects. For more information about partnering with us contact wbs@westsideseniorshub.org or 604-736-3588 ext. 606.