The Richmond RCMP public service video that sparked an online debate among road users, and drew Premier David Eby’s criticism, was produced by a high school filmmaker with an ICBC grant and co-stars an officer.
The dramatic 42-second video without dialogue, posted Oct. 13 to X, formerly known as Twitter, was intended to help reduce the number of collisions involving pedestrians in Richmond. Last year, there were 65, including 43 in winter.
The proposal to ICBC’s community grant program in December 2022, obtained under the federal access to information law, sought $500 to “provide token financial compensation” to an aspiring Grade 11 filmmaker at a Richmond high school.
“Capitalizing on this student’s passion, creativity and skills, we hope to provide a wider platform for his craft, while being able to develop a high quality and extremely effective video that is beyond the modest amount it will cost to develop,” wrote Randall Walrond, City of Richmond’s community police station coordinator, in the proposal.
The video got bang for the buck, registering 7.4 million impressions and 1.4 million views, according to public information officer Cpl. Adriana O’Malley.
Walrond’s proposal cited the 2016 to 2020 B.C. annual average of 2,400 injuries and 52 deaths of pedestrians and said the goal was: “Increased community awareness around the roles and responsibilities that drivers and pedestrians collectively have in keeping our roads safe for pedestrians.”
The proposal said the video could be adapted for multiple languages and distributed through immigrant assistance charities, posted on YouTube and promoted through social medial channels.
“With Richmond being a dynamic, growing and multi-ethnic community, boasting the highest percentage of immigrants in Canada, there is a high number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in our community,” said the proposal. “Some of these incidents may be a result of newcomers being unfamiliar with the driving and pedestrian rules of Canada so an awareness campaign targeting this demographic would be beneficial.”
ICBC road safety and community coordinator Harvey Kooner was delighted with the script, including how it emphasized “we all have a choice with wardrobe selection,” the close-up of the pedestrian’s shoes, the distractions for both driver and pedestrian and the shared responsibility tagline.
“I like that,” Kooner wrote Jan. 30.
A week earlier, Walrond wanted the script to focus on visibility and expressed concern that “the messaging ends up being one-sided (drivers can’t make a pedestrian more visible).”
He suggested that the video contain separate slides with point-form advice for drivers and pedestrians.
For drivers: to focus on the road, be ready to yield to pedestrians, especially at intersections and near transit stops, and expect the unexpected, even mid-block.
Similarly, after a shot of the frightened pedestrian, pointers for pedestrians: always use a crosswalk and follow signs and signals, remove headphones when crossing, wear reflective clothing to be seen in wet weather, at dusk and night, and make eye contact with drivers, because “it’s hard to be seen when visibility is poor.”
But, in the end, it did not make the cut. Only the title, “Pedestrian Safety is a Two-Way Street,” appeared before logos for the RCMP and federal government. The advice did, however, appear in the Richmond RCMP news release.
Email shows Const. Frank Bryson volunteered in February to portray the distracted driver and to use his own car, but nobody on camera received payment.
O’Malley, citing privacy laws, declined to identify either the pedestrian in the video or the student producer.
During an October news conference, Eby agreed with advocates for pedestrians and cyclists that the “video probably misses the mark.” But he did not give an overall thumbs down.
“The pedestrian is crossing at a crosswalk and following the law and the driver is looking at his cellphone, and there’s sort of an equivalency there in the video,” Eby said. “The message though, overall, about this being a time of year to be alert as a driver and as a pedestrian, is important.”
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