Could Vision Zero-based policy work in Toronto, where cars rule the road?
Vision Zero — which focuses on traffic systems being designed to save lives — may be tall order for Toronto, where political will remains skewed toward cars.
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City officials are promising to adopt a policy that focuses on safety over speed when Toronto’s road plan is overhauled later this year.
The plan, Coun. Jaye Robinson said Wednesday, will be based on Vision Zero — an international movement aimed at eliminating road deaths.
Vision Zero was pioneered in Sweden in 1997. It’s credited with reducing traffic fatalities in the country by nearly 40 per cent, and has since been adopted across the world, including cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
A key plank of Vision Zero is that roads and traffic systems should be designed to save lives, even if that means inconveniencing drivers.
That may be a tall order for Toronto, where political will remains skewed toward cars. For example, Robinson’s comments were followed Wednesday by a lengthy address from Mayor John Tory about relieving traffic congestion.
“We have to balance competing priorities on our roads,” Robinson said. “But safety has to be number one.”
Pedestrian and cycling advocates have spent years pushing the city to adopt an official Vision Zero policy. Those cries were renewed this week after 2015 closed as the worst year for traffic fatalities in more than a decade. One pedestrian has been killed so far this year and another was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a truck.
For Walk Toronto’s Dylan Reid, a genuine Vision Zero policy would include a “fully funded, systematic strategy” to improve infrastructure and dangerous intersections, as well as public education campaigns “that target drivers specifically” and speed reductions on major roads.
“This will cost money, but costing money is better than costing lives,” Reid said.
Robinson was hesitant to say which Vision Zero principles the new road plan will incorporate.
“The strategy in Sweden was to strive to eliminate traffic fatalities and we’re going to philosophically take that approach,” she said.
She mentioned an expanded bike lane network, street lights near seniors’ centres and more red light cameras but shied away from Vision Zero staples like narrower lanes or wholesale speed-limit reductions.