Vision Zero should be bold, not bureaucratic

Today, March 20, 2019, City Council’s Community and Public Services Committee is considering the future of Vision Zero, as well as what to do about neighbourhood speed limits. This issue will be debated next week by the whole City Council. What follows is our presentation to the committee this morning.


My name is Steve Finkelman. My wife, Jane Cardillo, and I spoke at this committee four-and-a half years ago in support of Vision Zero.

Our son, David Finkelman, was run down and killed while crossing White Avenue on a green light by a distracted driver in January 2014. David’s promising life was cut way too short. Our lives, as we knew them, were forever shattered.

We saw Vision Zero as a new and innovative approach to calming the chaos on Edmonton’s streets, making sure everyone else’s loved ones made it home safely.

We offered to work with the Office of Traffic Safety. To tell our story as a way to humanize the devastating loss suffered when someone dies or is injured on the roads. We thought the city would need voices like ours to help convince drivers their actions on the road have real consequences. With more than a million dollars a year for advocacy and education, we expected an innovative and creative campaign, one that would put Vision Zero into the forefront of public awareness.

But it quickly became clear that was not going to happen.

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The Sounds of Silence

I wrote this essay in 2016. It was my first attempt at writing since the death of my son, two years earlier.


The house is silent. CNN has been muted. The kitchen radio and my phone are off. It’s just me and the computer. The cursor flashes expectantly.

Don’t await greatness today, computer. We’re in hostile territory here. Because, now, the thoughts I have so carefully muffled behind a wall of noise are free and they want to be heard.

I was a freelance writer until January 27, 2014. That’s the day my 27-year-old son, David, died.

And here I am, two years later, in my office, at my desk, attempting to trick my mind into thinking I’m working on a piece for publication.

It was my therapist’s idea. She thought doing something that I once found satisfying might give my fractured life some structure. So I look upon this as a homework assignment which I will hand in to my teacher next week. I’m prepared to spend an hour here, even if it’s just to watch the impatient pulsing of the cursor.

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Ripples

I see him, this young man, moving aimlessly through the crowded living room.

The dining table is laden with food: cold cuts, salads, desserts. Every now and then someone picks a grape or strawberry from an edible display, one of those decorative arrangements that uses fruit instead of flowers.

Still, there is no shortage of flowers. The air is thick with their scent. Birds of Paradise swan gracefully from a crystal vase. Orchids, roses, daisies, jostle for space on any available surface.They seem so out of place in the dark, waning days of January.

Every few minutes the doorbell rings with another delivery. The dog has given up barking and hunkers down under the dining table looking miserable.

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David comes back

Dad and I are at home. The front door opens. You walk in. We stare in disbelief. Our hands fly to our mouths. Our breath comes out ragged.

You look at us quizzically.

“Mom? Dad?” you say, stopping uncertainly in the middle of the room.

“What happened to you? You look so…” your eyes scan our faces in disbelief. “So. Old.”

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Mother’s Day 2018

It is early morning. The sun has not yet risen.The dog and I walk past slumbering houses along empty streets. The only sounds are my footsteps on pavement and the panting of the dog as she trots ahead of me.

This is our time. Setting out before the world awakens is deliberate. It is the hour when the wonders and mysteries of a darkened universe reveal themselves before they are eclipsed by the brilliance of the sun.

We don’t have to wait long. A pair of coyotes emerge from a back lane just metres from us. The dog tenses. I murmur to her. There is no danger. They are eager to get to the safety of their den before the world goes bright.

How can it be so dark right before the dawn? But I am comfortable wrapped in this black cloak. Because that same darkness lives within me. I am forever free-falling into the bottomless black hole of my son’s death.

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Why Chloe Wiwchar’s death matters

Last Sunday eveningĀ  16-year-old Chloe Wiwchar was going home after spending some time with her friends. The Grade 11 Victoria High School student had to cross Kingsway, a busy and wide arterial road in front of the Alberta Aviation Museum.

The crosswalk had been recently upgraded, with bright, high-intensity flashing solar-powered lights. They are hard to miss.

But she never made it across. A pickup truck, reportedly driven by an Edmonton corporate lawyer, ran through the crossing, killing Chloe. To make matters worse, the driver sped away, but was followed by an alert off-duty police officer and later arrested. He has been charged with a number of offences including drunk driving.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness.

I dance around the word like a moth circling a bright flame. From a distance, I see its beauty. But if I fly too close it will burn me.

I try to live my life with kindness. I follow as best I can the Buddhist principle of Ahimsa, the practice of doing no harm to any living thing, including yourself.

Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

I am human. It is not always easy to be kind. It is not always easy to forgive.

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Yoga Breaths

A blast of arctic air pushes past me into the yoga studio. The sun has not yet risen, leaving those brave enough to venture out at the mercy of the ice fog and biting winds. It is January in Edmonton. The dead of winter is alive and well.

I hang up my parka, stuffing my mitts and toque into one sleeve. The snow is melting from my boots even before I pull them off. I begin to relax. This is my community. Here I can forget for just a little while what awaits me beyond these walls.

I have been coming to this space four or five times a week since January 2014. It is my refuge, my sanctuary. Here, I find peace from the ever-present reality that my son, David, is dead.

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Valentine’s Day 2018

Holidays and celebrations are particularly difficult for people grieving the loss of a loved one. When our son, David Finkelman, was killed at the age of 27, our lives changed forever. This is an excerpt from my diary. I refer to David’s girlfriend as “M.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018:

Valentine’s Day. We were hit by freezing rain overnight. This morning, I inched along behind the dog, my crampons all but useless on the smooth, glassy streets.

The snow danced wildly around me, whipped into a frenzy by the north wind. I was blinded by a veil of whiteness. Blinded by the white. Blinded by the light.

Valentine’s Day. Suddenly, I was remembering Valentine’s Day 2014. It came just weeks after David was struck and killed in a crosswalk. The bleakest of times. We were zombies, moving through a world we no longer recognized. Blinded by the darkness.

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David’s Boots

My husband, Steve, and I started this blog last January. We wanted it to be a forum for street safety as well as a place where people could open up about the trauma of losing a loved one.

Several weeks ago, Edmonton writer Tim Querengesser spoke of that loss eloquently in his podcast, “Walkcast: Episode 2: How We Talk About Motorists Who Hit Pedestrians.”

 

The piece had a huge impact on me. I am so tired of hearing media reports about “a car in collision with a pedestrian.”

In fact, what we’re really talking about is a driver hitting a vulnerable human being, often with deadly consequences.

That is what we live with every single day, three-and-a-half years after a driver hit and killed our son, David Finkelman, while he was crossing Whyte Avenue on a green light.

Today, Thursday, September 14th, David would have celebrated his 31st birthday. I am sharing an entry from my personal journal, written a year ago, when David was about to turn 30.

Not much has changed since then.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016:

I have been frozen for weeks. Unable to write more than a handful of words.

It began with your boots. The shiny, black leather boots that laced up to your ankles. You were fastidious with those boots, always polishing them, buffing them, to a high luster.

You had them on the day you were killed. The police returned them to us in a hospital-issue plastic bag. Continue reading “David’s Boots”