September 24, 2020

BY KEILA MACPHERSON

Slipping and falling on hidden ice isn’t the only danger winter brings … shortened daylight hours can also make for a cautious walk home.

Familiar walking routes from school or work are well lit at 5 p.m. in late summer to early autumn, but can become unfamiliar when the sun sets around 5 p.m. in the winter.

The feeling of compromised senses and vulnerability is felt mostly by females.

“I don’t like walking alone at night – it’s my last option if there’s absolutely no one to walk me home. I do walk home from school every day, but it’s light out and at least there are people I kind of know,” said 15-year-old Maddison Braga, chair of the YWCA Cambridge Girl’s Council.

“In the dark you can’t see properly if someone’s behind you.”

On Dec. 6, the YWCA Cambridge Girl’s Council went on a safety audit tour of the downtown Galt area. The tour started at the Girl’s Centre, went to the Ainslie Street Terminal and around to city hall.

There were some spots along the safety walk that the girls felt safer.

Braga said she felt comfortable around the well-lit city hall area because in addition to good lighting there were security cameras and a guard nearby.

There were also places where the girls said they would feel very uncomfortable walking alone at night, such as the Cambridge Farmer’s Market parking lot or the lot behind the Girl’s Centre building, even walking down the main street.

“Even though we were in a big group of people and we had adults present it was still intimidating because we still had people whistling at us,” Braga said.

Kim Decker, executive director at YWCA Cambridge, led the girls around the downtown core and explained some key factors in what determines a safe space.

“It’s about looking at the physical space; if there’s public transportation around, if it’s well lit, if there are any places that people could be hiding, et cetera.”

Decker said the most important thing to remember is to be aware of your surroundings. This should be practised regardless of gender.

Phil Mihaly, a Cambridge resident, said he enjoys walking at night, but always pays attention and is aware of what is around him.

“For a guy the main thing to be concerned about is if someone was going to jump him and steal his money,” he said. “Generally speaking guys are more physical and girls are more emotional … in terms of being in danger I can understand why they would be scared.”

Although men generally feel less threatened walking alone at night, there is still concern for all genders and an emphasis on being aware of personal safety.

For the cautious on campus, Conestoga College’s security department provides Walk Safe to help students feel safer around campus at night. It is available at Doors 1 and 6 from 6:45 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., from September to April, excluding holidays.

More information on Walk Safe can be found online at conestogac.on.ca/security/tips, by calling 519-748-5220, ext. 3357, or by visiting Room 2B10-6 across from the library at the Doon campus.