Toronto Board of Health Wants to Lower Motor Vehicle Speed Limits in Favour of Cycling and Walking.


The Toronto Board of Health wants to lower the current 40 km/h (24 mph) speed limit in residential area's and school zones to 30 km/h (18 mph) and wants to decrease the common 50 km/h speed limit in other areas of the city to 40 km/h (24 miles per hour).

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A new report released by the Toronto Board of Health extolls the virtues of walking and cycling in the city as effective ways to boost your health and (win-win!) their revenue.

What it doesn’t recommend is driving the current speed limit.

Dr. David McKeown Medical Officer of Health City of Toronto is proposing lowering speed limits by 10 km/h on some roads and 20 km/h on other roads to protect cyclists and pedestrians from motor vehicles.

McKeown made the proposals upon the release of a $45,000 report, Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto, which cited evidence that pedestrians are far less likely to be killed for every 10 km/h reduction below 60 km/h.

“Small increases in traffic speeds results in a disproportionately large increase in pedestrian fatalities,” Dr. David McKeown wrote.

The report pointed to studies that showed a “greatly increased probability of death or serious injury when hit by a vehicle travelling 50 km/h compared with 40 km/h.” One found that 85 per cent of people struck at 50 km/h are likely to die, versus only 25 per cent at 40 km/hour.

In 2011, the City of Toronto saw a 19% decrease in traffic fatalities, compared to 2010. In 2010, 20 Toronto pedestrians were killed and 2,050 injured. In 2009, 31 were killed and 2,069 injured; in 2008, 27 were killed and 1,920 injured.

In their recently released report, “Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto,” the Toronto Board of Health examined both the health benefits and risks of walking and cycling. (As you can imagine, there weren’t many downsides.)

Conducted with the help of the city’s Transportation Services division and a team of unnamed experts, the 98-page study recommends the implementation of several strategic measures to promote the use and safety of these types of “active transportation” in the city—a key recommendation being “reducing vehicle speed limits to 30 kilometres per hour (18 miles per hour) on residential streets, and imposing a city-wide limit of 40 kilometres per hour (24 miles per hour)  on all other streets, unless marked otherwise.”

While this may appear to downtown commuters as the latest incarnation of the “war on the car,” the report cites reduced mortality rates from vascular diseases like strokes and heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, and mitigating effects on mental illness as overwhelmingly favourable consequences that would result from investing in traffic signals with advanced crossings for pedestrians and more markings (like bicycle boxes) for cyclists navigating the urban core.

Traffic Fatalities in Toronto (2007-2011)

2011 –  Total = 35 (automobile – driver= 10, passenger= 3, pedestrian= 18, cyclist= 2, motorcycle driver= 2)

2010 – Total = 43 (automobile – driver= 12, passenger= 8, pedestrian= 20, cyclist= 2, motorcycle driver= 1)

2009 – Total = 48 (automobile – driver=   6, passenger= 9, pedestrian= 31, cyclist= 1, motorcycle driver= 1)

2008 – Total = 54 (automobile – driver= 15, passenger= 7, pedestrian= 27, cyclist= 2, motorcycle driver= 3)

2007 – Total = 52 (automobile – driver= 14, passenger= 8, pedestrian= 23, cyclist= 3, motorcycle driver= 4)

The report also naturally touched on economics of activity: It is estimated that a more active populace would offset about $110­‑160 million in direct health care costs and about $62 million in current expenditures related to vehicle-pedestrian collisions. (When the indirect costs of “lost productivity” and “the economic value of a life” are factored in, we’re looking at a total windfall of any between $130-478 million.) Should the infrastructural changes find some vocal proponents at City Hall, the report is poised to change the way Toronto’s foot-and-pedal fans get from place to place.

Dr. David McKeown Medical Officer of Health City of Toronto - he wants everyone to drive a maximum of 40 km's/h all across the city and 30 km's/h in residential zones. He thinks it is better to cycle and walk, then drive.

The report will be under consideration at a meeting of the Board of Health on April 30, 2012 and mulled over at a city council meeting on May 8, 2012.



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Tracking Status

  • This item will be considered by Board of Health on April 30, 2012. It will be considered by City Council on May 8, 2012, subject to the actions of the Board of Health.
Board of Health consideration on April 30, 2012





Road to Health: A Healthy Toronto by Design Report
(April 16, 2012) Report from the Medical Officer of Health

The Medical Officer of Health recommends that:


1.             The General Manager of Transportation Services work in collaboration with the Medical Officer of Health to support the increased use and safety of walking and cycling by:


a)         Enhancing the implementation of Toronto’s active transportation initiatives such as the City’s Walking Strategy and Bike Plan based on measures identified in the attached report, including:

i)          Reducing vehicle speed limits to 30 km/hr on residential streets and adopting a city-wide speed limit of 40 km/hr on all other streets, unless otherwise posted;

ii)         Installing leading pedestrian signal intervals and markings for cyclists (such as bicycle boxes) ;

b)         Using the findings in the report to inform cycling and pedestrian studies/undertakings,  and to set goals and targets for active transportation safety and mode shares;

c)         Increasing investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure that increases safety; and

d)         Working with other Greater Toronto Area municipalities and Metrolinx to develop an Active Transportation network.


2.              The Board of Health forward this report to the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning to support Official Plan policies and inform all planning studies in areas of Toronto with low bike-ability and walkability.


3.              The Board of Health request the Ontario  Ministers of Health and Long-Term Care, Transportation, Infrastructure, Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Environment as well as  the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of State (Transport) to support coordinated federal and provincial active transportation strategies that include:


a)         Providing long-term, dedicated funding to municipalities for building walking and cycling infrastructure; and

b)         Strengthening the Planning Act Provincial Policy Statement on active transportation to emphasize the need for connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, as part of municipal transportation systems.


4.              The Board of Health send this report to Metrolinx, the Ontario Minister of Education, the Directors of Education of the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board, Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud to encourage and support their collaboration in achieving the regional and municipal active transportation goal in The Big Move for schools (i.e., 60% of children in Toronto and walking or cycling to school by 2033).


5.         The Board of Health forward this report to:


a)         The Chief Coroner of Ontario, the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), the Urban Public Health Network,  the Heart and Stroke Foundations of Canada and Ontario, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), and the Ontario Lung Association;

b)         The Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI),  and the Cities Centre at University of Toronto;

c)         The Toronto Police Services Board, Toronto Board of Trade, Conference Board of Canada,   the Toronto Transit Commission, the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), Transportation Association of Canada, Canadian Institute for Transportation Engineers, Greater Toronto Area Clean Air Council, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, Toronto  Cyclists Union; and

d)         The City Manager; the General Manager of Toronto Employment and Social Services; the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Toronto Community Housing Corporation; the Director of the Toronto Environment Office and the Executive Director of Social Development, Finance and Administration.


Toronto Public Health undertook a comprehensive examination of the health benefits and risks of active transportation (such as walking and cycling). The purpose of this study was to identify strategies and specific opportunities for improving health and quality of life by increasing the use and safety of active transportation throughout Toronto.


This Board of Health report summarizes the attached report, Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto. It examines the published evidence on the health impacts of walking and cycling for transportation in urban areas, and also discusses the economic, social, environmental, and transportation system benefits. The report presents data on walking and cycling mode shares and collisions in the City of Toronto, and quantifies the health benefits of active transportation in Toronto. It was prepared in collaboration with the Transportation Services Division and external experts.


This study provides clear evidence that physical activity from active transportation generates important health benefits such as reduced mortality from chronic diseases, and reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, obesity, diabetes and several types of cancer, particularly colon and breast cancer. In Toronto, 2006 levels of walking and cycling to work were estimated to prevent about 120 deaths each year.


Savings in direct health care costs arising from current levels of Toronto residents staying active by walking or cycling and averting chronic illness are estimated to result in reduced health care spending of $110 to $160 million. In Toronto, costs associated with pedestrian-vehicle collisions cost over $53 million and cyclist-vehicle collisions are over $9 million.  By improving safety for pedestrian and cyclists in Toronto the direct costs associated with vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists could be reduced by over $62 million.

In terms of indirect costs, if estimates of lost productivity or the economic value of a life are included, the total economic benefits of active transportation in Toronto range from $130 million to $478 million.


Increasing walking and cycling to levels of other leading North American cities such as Vancouver and Portland would prevent additional deaths and increase economic benefits.  It is estimated that achieving walking and cycling mode shares of 12% and 6%, respectively, would prevent about 100 additional deaths each year, yielding additional annual benefits of $100 million to $400 million.


Annual expenditures on cycling and pedestrian projects are a small fraction of the value of the health benefits they provide. Federal and provincial funding of active transportation infrastructure at the municipal level is one important strategy to control escalating health care costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity. This report concludes that increased investment in the safety, attractiveness and feasibility of walking and cycling will help to improve health. While priority attention needs to be directed to enhancing and expanding pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, there are many other lower cost measures that the City can implement such as lowering speed limits and implementing traffic signal systems that provide advanced crossing to pedestrians and cyclists. Many excellent initiatives have been undertaken by the City in recent years. This report identifies specific ways in which these initiatives can be enhanced and expanded on a City-wide basis.

Financial Impact

There are no financial implications arising from this report.

Background Information
(April 16, 2012) Report from the Medical Officer of Health on Road to Health: A Healthy Toronto by Design Report

Attachment from Toronto Public Health titiled Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto
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