Will 2016 be the year Toronto gets serious about road safety?
It's official. With 64 traffic-related fatalities, 2015 was the deadliest year on Toronto roads in over a decade.
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In the wake of the deadliest year on local roads in over a decade, pedestrian advocates say it’s time for the city to accept that human lives are worth more than convenient car commutes.
A total of 64 people – drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists – died on Toronto’s streets last year, the highest number of traffic-related fatalities since 2004. The majority of those killed were pedestrians, including a 63-year-old man struck in a hit and run on the Danforth on New Year’s Eve.
A host of pedestrian proponents in Toronto believe the numbers show the government’s focus on fighting gridlock has left other road users behind.
“The safety of vulnerable road users should always be prioritized,” said Walk Toronto’s Michael Black. “Unfortunately, our current and previous mayors have tended to pursue a reverse course, skewing the balance in favour of relieving vehicular congestion on Toronto’s streets.”
As an example, lawyer Albert Koehl noted the majority of fatal pedestrian collisions occur on major arterial roads designed for cars, where crosswalks are few and far between and speed limits are high.
“We need to be willing to trade off high motor speeds for human lives,” said Koehl, who’s pushed the city to lower speed limits.
In a statement to Metro, Mayor John Tory called last year’s road deaths “tragic and unacceptable,” and promised a revised road safety plan for 2016.
“We all have to take responsibility for making sure these numbers drop dramatically next year,” the mayor said.
There’s no “silver bullet” for road safety, said Stephen Buckley, the city's general manager of transportation. Instead, he said staff are poring over data, identifying problem intersections and figuring out which interventions or education programs will get results.
“We want to take a step back, de-politicize what we’re doing and craft what we think is the best strategy going forward,” Buckley said.
Toronto’s streets still safe, officials say
Despite the high number of traffic-related fatalities in 2015, Stephen Buckley, the city's general manager of transportation, insisted Toronto’s streets are still safe.
The 64 deaths on Toronto’s roads last year equal about 2.4 fatalities per 100,000 residents, Buckley said, a stat he called “off the chart low.”
In New York in 2010, the rate was 3.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.
“Toronto is still one of the safest cities in terms of traffic in North America,” Buckley said. “Even some of our worst years are better than other cities’ best years.”