News / Toronto

Toronto streets get deadlier for cyclists, pedestrians

Thirty-one people have died on Toronto streets this year — putting the city on track for what could prove a record year in road fatalities.

The deaths include 21 pedestrians and three cyclists who were killed within the last month.

Police had recorded only 11 road deaths at this time in 2014.

There’s no simple explanation, or solution, for the spike, police said. But, in more than one case, impaired driving has been a factor.

"Both the cyclists and drivers have made errors in those collisions," Const. Clinton Stibbe said. "Unfortunately those errors, whether they were small or not, have led to the death of an individual.

“You could make that same mistake every single day for the rest of your life and not be killed."

Cycling advocates, on the other hand, say better infrastructure will prevent a repeat of the last few weeks. Each of this year’s fatal cycling crashes happened in an area without cycling infrastructure.

"It's tragic, quite frankly,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto. “No one should have to risk their lives by simply going out for a bicycle ride."

The rapid rate of crashes has left Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, a group that leaves ghost bike memorials at the sites of fatal cycling incidents, running out of stock.

A Facebook post from a member of the group is calling for donations of unwanted bikes that can be sprayed white and left on streets as permanent reminders of deadly collisions.

Two memorial rides are planned in the coming days to honour Zhi Yong Kang and an unnamed 26-year-old.

The cycling deaths are coming at a time when new bike lanes are being planned on major streets.

After seeing early success, the city is planning to extend the Adelaide and Richmond street cycle lanes to Parliament St., broadening the scope of an existing pilot project. Figures showed the lanes significantly boosted the number of bicycle users on each corridor without slowing auto traffic.

Toronto and East York Community Council affirmed support on Tuesday for separated lanes on Dundas, River and Shuter streets, east of Sherbourne. The motion was forwarded to the public works committee for information.

"Bike infrastructure works for everybody," says Yvonne Bambrick, author of The Urban Cycling Survival Guide. "Bike infrastructure makes the roads work better, and it makes them more predictable."

Though the real and planned upgrades are being broadly welcomed, Kolb says there is still more work to be done to better safeguard the city's more than 1.5 million cyclists.

"We think that the city has really got to get serious with building a citywide grid of protected bike lanes and funding cycling infrastructure," he says. "It's just taking far too long."

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