Update: see previous post – June 11, 2016 Toronto: Pedestrians Dying at an Alarming Rate
Critic wishes strategy aimed at protecting pedestrians, cyclists were implemented citywide
A highly anticipated road safety plan to be unveiled by the city on Monday will take a targeted approach by reducing speed limits and reconfiguring intersections on dangerous streets in a bid to lower pedestrian and cyclist injuries.
The strategy, in the works for over a year, aims to reduce the number of vulnerable road users killed and hurt on the city’s roads.
“I think the stats speak for themselves. We can no longer ignore this . . . We need to have a plan and we need to execute it,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West), who chairs the public works committee. “There’s no level of fatalities that are acceptable and my vision is to try to get to zero.”
According to the city, 168 pedestrians and cyclists died in traffic collisions between 2011 and 2015, and 1,029 were seriously injured.
Mayor John Tory is expected to join Robinson at the launch on Monday to highlight the benefits of the plan.
“The mayor knows people of Toronto care about each other and want to do their part to prevent accidents and the tragic loss of life. There are concrete steps the City can take to do our part,” Tory’s spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Robinson said she couldn’t discuss specifics of the strategy before it was unveiled, but it will present 40 safety measures under five key areas — pedestrians, cyclists, school zones, aggressive and distracted driving, and seniors — to be rolled out over several years, according to Robinson, and will include education, enforcement, and engineering initiatives.
Robinson and others familiar with the report told the Star that through an extensive analysis of collision data, transportation staff have identified about 15 “pedestrian safety corridors” they consider particularly dangerous for vulnerable road users. Most of the corridors are downtown, where collisions with pedestrians and cyclists are concentrated.
These hot spots will be targeted for safety upgrades like reduced speed limits, physical alterations to the roadway, and signal changes that favour pedestrians.
About 14 additional streets or intersections have been identified to undergo safety audits that will determine future safety improvements at those locations.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all, it’s a very tailored strategy,” said Robinson.
But Maureen Coyle, a member of the steering committee for pedestrian-advocacy group Walk Toronto, said that focusing on areas where injuries have already occurred is “too reactive.”
“If you’re only looking behind you then you’re only looking at a part of the picture,” said Coyle, who was one of the stakeholders the city consulted while drafting the plan. She noted that other cities that have implemented strategies modelled on Sweden’s lauded Vision Zero campaign have made their policies citywide.
Coyle also took issue with the level of funding staff is expected to recommend be put toward the plan: $68 million over five years, or roughly $40 million more than currently dedicated to road safety initiatives.
“If you’re looking at real culture change, which we have to look at here, both in terms of space and in terms of behaviours, then we need to start looking in the hundreds of millions (of dollars),” she said.
Stephen Buckley, the city’s general manager of transportation, defended the targeted approach, arguing that it makes sense to focus resources on areas that where vulnerable road users are most often killed or injured.
“When you look in the downtown core, you have consistently, year over year, the same types of numbers and the same types of locations,” he said.
“This gives us a little bit more of a laser focus.”
The public works and infrastructure committee will debate the strategy at its June 20 meeting.
By the numbers
2,142: average number of annual pedestrian collisions, 2005-2014
27.3: average number of annual pedestrian fatalities
16: average number of pedestrian fatalities involving people 55 and older
1,235: average number of annual cyclist collisions
6 p.m.: time of day when highest portion of injuries and fatalities occurred
31: pedestrians killed by distracted drivers between 2011 and 2014
Source: City of Toronto