Are Ottawa's roads getting safer?
Recent data from the city shows that total collisions haven't gone down that much.
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The city has released updated data on collisions in Ottawa over the past five years, showing the number of crashes declined slightly in 2016, while fatalities and collisions between cars and pedestrians moved up.
In total, there was just over 14,000 collisions reported in 2016, down from 15,078 in 2015, fatalities increased from 22 in 2015 to 26 in 2016.
Of those 26 fatailites killed in collisions in 2016, four of them were pedestrians, and three of them cyclists.
While the hard numbers don’t show a major drop in the number of collisions, nor the total number of injuries and fatalities, that those figures are holding steady is perhaps misleading, since there has been an increase recently in the number of cyclists on Ottawa’s roads.
Ultimately, cycling advocates say Ottawa is going in the right direction when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure.
“By North American standards, we really are doing well,” said Heather Shearer, president of Bike Ottawa. “Of course, there’s a ton of room for improvement. We know that about two-thirds of the population is interested in riding their bike for at least some of their trips.”
Shearer pointed to the amount of protected cycling infrastructure in the city as evidence of progress. “We’re often one of the first cities to try out new things, or at least things that are new to Ontario. We’re willing to experiment here,” she said. “We have a city council that fairly progressive, and they recognize that there needs to be a mix of transportation options.”
The stats still, however, show that more work needs to be done to get to the goal of zero pedestrian deaths—”Vision Zero”—set out by Safer Roads Ottawa.
Rob Wilkinson, coordinator of the Safer Roads Ottawa program, said recently the organization is looking at ways to become a more sustainable organization from a funding perspective, so that it can continue this work.
“Until we get to zero I’m not happy,” he said in an interview last week. “So we’re going to keep pushing the envelop and finding new technologies, and doing more education.”
While some members of the transportation committee commented last week that they would like to see more education for cyclists and drivers alike, Shearer said that infrastructure investment would be more effective.
“We all know that we should drive cautiously, but all the education campaigns in the world won’t prevent someone from making a mistake.”