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.
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.
“Just the facts, ma’am.” The famous line attributed to the 60s TV show detective Sgt. Joe Friday was aimed at cutting through the investigative clutter. We could use Friday’s no-nonsense character today as we search for the truth about photo radar, speeding and how to make our roads safer.
Recently, such prominent people as Edmonton’s police chief, Rod Knecht, have waded into the debate. He told reporters, apparently without being asked, that he would favour an increase in the posted speed along Anthony Henday Road from 100 km/h to 110 km/h. He said it was his personal opinion that the safety of the route would not be compromised because people already drive that speed.
If you follow this blog you know that photo radar is a touchy subject with us.
Some people call it a “cash cow” for the municipalities which use it. To us, photo radar is a valuable tool in slowing traffic and saving lives. That is what the research says in many studies in a dozen different jurisdictions.
Since our son, David, was killed three years ago while crossing Whyte Avenue by a distracted driver, we have taken the time to read those studies and separate fact from fiction.
So when the new leader of the Alberta PC Party sent out a tweet this week asking people whether photo radar should be banned, our blood started to boil.
I admit that it really bothers me when people start describing photo radar as a cash cow. But after police have come to your door to tell you that your son was killed crossing the street, you look at the world differently.
So when I turned on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM Monday morning to hear that the topic of their “Morning Roast” was photo radar, I was prepared for the worst.
What I heard from my former colleagues left me yelling at my radio in outrage.
“We need to start by recognizing that some users are more vulnerable than others,” he said, “and the more we draw people out into our streets and public spaces, the more we need to do to ensure they have a safe and inviting experience.”
It’s the toughest talk yet by a city official aimed at making Edmonton streets safer, while recognizing that pedestrians, cyclists and others need more protection from speeding, distracted and aggressive drivers.
If you are wondering ‘What’s Vision Zero?’ you have a very good excuse. City council approved more than $50 million for the first five years of the program (2016-2020), but only city hall aficionados and road safety advocates know much about it.
Part of the reason we started our blog was to give voice to others who have lost loved ones. The following was submitted by Mary Riley in memory of her daughter, Clare.
On June 30th 2013, our daughter Clare Ann Riley Patershuk was killed by a drunk driver.
Clare was 26 years old and earlier in the month had been granted a Masters degree in Educational Psychology from the U.of A.
There are so many things we want you to know about her. She was loving, intelligent, beautiful, wise, caring and funny. She painted and drew. She loved animals, particularly horses, and spent a lot of her leisure time on the back of a horse. She was the daughter we longed for, the daughter we loved so much.
This photograph was featured prominently in the Edmonton Journal.
At first glance, it looks harmless enough: A little girl and a man standing by the side of a snowy road. The man appears to be waving and the girl is holding up a large cardboard cut-out of a cow.
But look closer and you see the word, “Radar” printed across the cow’s body.
The man is Jack Shultz, Edmonton’s infamous photo radar denier, warning motorists of a nearby photo radar location. The cow, of course, is a tool to trumpet (or perhaps moo) Mr. Shultz’s oft-repeated message that photo radar is a cash cow, the city’s way of lining its coffers.
For some reason, Mr. Shultz feels it’s his duty to inform the masses of the wrongs he believes are being perpetrated upon them by photo radar. He insists enforcement of the practice doesn’t work. He says there is no evidence showing it slows drivers down.
The Snow Queen swept through Edmonton overnight, riding in on the north wind to claim the city as her own polar realm.
Ice crystals, like the broken pieces of a thousand mirrors, glint under street lamps. Tree branches bow beneath a layer of hoarfrost. My breath bursts from my body in puffy white clouds, before vanishing into the early morning blackness.