With snow and ice beginning to clog streets and sidewalks, this year’s campaign comes at the perfect time.
“This year we are focusing on how people can keep themselves safe as pedestrians,” said Rita Debruyn, Robbinsdale’s senior program coordinator.
In the past, the campaign has focused on drivers and home and business owners keeping sidewalks clear so pedestrians are safe, Debruyn said.
This year however, they wanted to shed light on ways pedestrians can watch out for themselves – especially since Robbinsdale has a large walking population among seniors.
“I think it’s an awareness that there are a lot of people that walk in Robbinsdale,” Debruyn said. “Many people’s legs are literally their way of getting around. That was the beginning of it. We have many walkers and we support Robbinsdale being a safe city to have people walk in.”
A display at City Hall shows ways pedestrians can rely on themselves during the upcoming icy months. Debruyn said the display is a way to show people what they can do and what can happen if they don’t follow the suggestions.
“If you’re walking, use ice melt, wear cleats on your shoes,” Debruyn advises. “Wear a blinky light or fluorescent clothes so people see you. Make sure your walks are shoveled so you don’t take risks, otherwise you may be at North Memorial or on crutches and bandaged up.”
David Bjorkquist, chair of the Robbinsdale Senior Commission, said that at city hall, flashing lights are available for walkers.
“We realized that in the winter we wear dark clothing and there are many more hours of darkness and that’s what we’re concerned about,” he said.
With an icy start to the winter season, Bjorkquist said the Senior Commission hopes that homeowners and business owners will be conscientious that there are a lot of people walking, thus a lot more opportunities for slipping and falling.
“If we can prevent a fall, it just means an awful lot,” he said. “A fall can immediately change the life of a senior. That’s one of the things we like to avoid and it’s beneficial for others. We hope that we can do something for our senior population and for others as well.”
Debruyn said that ice becomes a large problem in Minnesota winters because either it’s not visible, or pedestrian’s think they can get across it but can quickly lose balance.
“Your balance isn’t quite as good as you think it is, for many of us, really,” she said. “I stress that don’t assume drivers can see you. Make yourself visible.”
Waving your hands and making eye contact with a driver helps increase chances of visibility, Debruyn said.
“I think this campaign is for everybody, not just seniors,” she said. “We like to encourage everyone to walk. It’s good exercise. It’s one of the best ways to stay healthy.”
A Robbinsdale walker himself, Bjorkquist said there are days when he doesn’t want to be out walking because it’s hazardous, so he drives instead.
“It’s such good exercise,” he said of walking. “You can’t do other things in the winter like mow the lawn, or work in the garden. Walking really becomes an important part of the staying healthy routine. If you can’t get out and walk, lethargy sets in.”
Bjorkquist said that the most important part of the winter campaign is to alert pedestrians to walking hazards so they can be safer when they are out and about.
“This time around, it’s taking personal responsibility as a pedestrian,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re a target for everyone in a vehicle, but realize that if the two of you come together, the pedestrian is going to be the loser.”