News / Toronto

Experts offer 5 ways to make Toronto's streets safer

A 39-year-old pedestrian was killed by a car on Kennedy Road, just south of Ellesmere, Sunday night, becoming Toronto’s first traffic-related fatality of 2016.

Police investigate the scene of a fatal pedestrian struck accident on Lawrence Avenue West near Jane Street on Nov. 11, 2013.

Torstar News Service

Police investigate the scene of a fatal pedestrian struck accident on Lawrence Avenue West near Jane Street on Nov. 11, 2013.

It only took three days.

A 39-year-old pedestrian was killed by a car on Kennedy Road, just south of Ellesmere, Sunday night, becoming Toronto’s first traffic-related fatality of 2016.

“It’s a pretty dangerous intersection, no question about it,” said Jeff Ware, manager of nearby Arrow Furniture. “There’s just so much pedestrian traffic and vehicle traffic moving through it.”

The man was hit about 7:20 p.m. and pronounced dead at hospital, police said. It’s believed he was crossing Kennedy mid-block. Ware told Metro pedestrian crossings are far apart along that stretch of Kennedy, which makes walking to the nearest intersection inconvenient.

“A lot of our staff make that risky crossing to get to the bus stop there,” he said.

Last year was the deadliest year on Toronto’s roads in more than a decade. Sixty-four people – including 38 pedestrians – were killed in traffic-related incidents.

Safety advocates have long been calling for improvements to Toronto’s roadways, and the city has promised to unveil a revised road safety plan later this year.

These are some of the major contributors to traffic-related fatalities experts have identified, along with potential solutions to make our streets safer:

The problem: Mid-block crossings

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The stretch of Kennedy Road near Ellesmere offers few areas for pedestrians to cross.

Ontario’s chief coroner has noted that a third of pedestrian deaths occurred during mid-block crossings. It’s not illegal to cross mid-block in Toronto, but it is more dangerous. On many arterial roads, including Kennedy, signalized crosswalks are few and far between, which some say encourages jaywalking.

Solution:

Pedestrian advocates, as well as the coroner, have long called on the city to build more mid-block crossing on major arterials. “Blaming the victim for not walking a half kilometre to a traffic light is neither fair nor realistic,” says lawyer and pedestrian champion Albert Koehl.

Problem: Distracted ‘everything’

Drivers aren't paying attention. Cyclists aren't paying attention. Pedestrians aren't paying attention. And it's gotten darker.

Torstar News Service

Drivers aren't paying attention. Cyclists aren't paying attention. Pedestrians aren't paying attention. And it's gotten darker.

“There’s a recognition that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are not paying attention as much as they should,” said Stephen Buckley, Toronto’s transportation manager. It’s a phenomenon he calls “distracted everything.”

Solution:

Buckley says the answer to distracted drivers and pedestrians is education. It may take time, but he’s confident that with the right messaging, the city can cause a cultural shift that will reduce the number of distracted road users in Toronto.

Problem: High speeds

Moves to lower city speed limits, which are routinely exceeded, have met stiff resistance from drivers who consider safety to be less important than haste.

Torstar News Service

Moves to lower city speed limits, which are routinely exceeded, have met stiff resistance from drivers who consider safety to be less important than haste.

A pedestrian hit by a car travelling at 50 km/hour is nearly twice as likely to die as one hit by a car going 30 km/hour, according to the provincial coroner.

Solution:

For most experts in Toronto, lower speed limits are a key plank of any road safety plan. The Toronto East York community council has already approved reducing speeds along some residential streets to 30 km/hour, but many pedestrian advocates, including the chief medical officer, want to see speed reductions on arterial roads as well. The speed limit on Kennedy near Ellesmere is 60 km/hour. “We need to be willing to trade off high motor speeds for human lives,” Koehl said.

Problem: Deadly trucks

Investigators examine a truck involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist at Airport Rd. and Northwest Dr. in 2011.

Torstar News Service

Investigators examine a truck involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist at Airport Rd. and Northwest Dr. in 2011.

According to the coroner’s review, nearly 10 per cent of cyclist deaths and five per cent of pedestrian fatalities were the result of victims coming into contact with the side of heavy trucks.

Solution:

One solution would be to make side guards mandatory on trucks. Although the federal government has thus far declined to do so, lawyer Patrick Brown says it’s within the city’s power to pass a by-law prohibiting trucks without side guards from entering Toronto.

“Why is it that rear guards are mandatory on trucks.? Because they were proven to save the lives of car drivers being killed when colliding with the rear of trucks. The fact sideguards, which are known to save the lives of cyclist and pedestrians, are not mandatory tells a lot about how certain road users are perceived,” Brown said.

Problem: Left-hand turns

Drivers wait in the left turn lane at Carlaw and Lake Shore.

Torstar News Service

Drivers wait in the left turn lane at Carlaw and Lake Shore.

Buckley told Metro that one issue identified by city staff is left-turning vehicles hitting pedestrians. He’s asked for a list of intersections where the trend is most prevalent.

Solution:

The solution really depends on the individual intersection, Buckley said, and could involve anything from “low-cost, low-tech” interventions like improved signage to things like prohibiting turns during certain times. However, he said the transportation department will have a better idea of which interventions will be most effective when it’s done crunching the numbers.