City officials in Toronto tout new road safety improvements
Between now and New Year's, the city will redesign 14 intersections, install 79 red light cameras and improve road markings at 317 locations.
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The city is looking to accelerate the rollout of its $80 million road safety plan as the death toll on Toronto streets continues to rise.
Between now and the end of the year, the city will reduce speed limits along 14 “pedestrian corridors,” redesign 14 intersections to reduce turning speeds and shorten crosswalk distances, install 79 red light cameras across the city and improve road markings at 317 locations, Coun. Jaye Robinson said Thursday
She made the comments while standing at Dundas and River, where a number of improvements related to the safety plan are underway.
The Ward 25 councillor reiterated Toronto is “fully committed to Vision Zero” and said she was alarmed by the number of fatalities and serious injuries that have occurred this year.
Sixty-five people have been killed in traffic collisions, including 36 pedestrians. The number has already surpassed last year’s fatalities, with two of the historically most deadly months still to come.
More spending on the road safety plan may be needed if “the trend continues going the wrong way,” Robinson said.
A number of pedestrian safety advocates say Robinson’s comments are at odds with Mayor John Tory’s push to reduce vehicle congestion in the city.
“There’s an insoluble tension between getting traffic moving more quickly and road safety,” said Walk Toronto’s Maureen Coyle.
If the city was truly committed to Vision Zero, Coyle said it would start by lowering default speed limits city wide, like New York did when it overhauled its safety strategy in 2014.
Critics point to Eglinton Avenue as an example. Eight pedestrians have been killed along the street this year, but the new road safety plan leaves the 60 km/h speed limit intact.
Roger Browne, Toronto’s head of traffic safety, said the city is working with Metrolinx to incorporate safety improvements along Eglinton while the Crosstown LRT is under construction.
He wouldn’t say if lower speed limits would be among the changes.
Asked what the city is doing about distracted driving, Robinson agreed it’s a problem but also stressed the need to combat “distracted walking.”
“You hear about that a lot,” the councillor said.
However, advocates have repeatedly pointed out that data suggests distracted walking is not a significant factor in fatal collisions. A 2015 report from Toronto Public Health noted only 13 per cent of pedestrians were “inattentive” at the time of a collision.
Research by the U.S. government attributes roughly six deaths a year to “portable electronic devices.” In contrast, the Ontario Provincial Police have investigated at least 38 road fatalities this year related to distracted driving.