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Toronto's Deadly Streets in review: How the city embraced design as a safety solution

Since Metro published its Toronto's Deadly Streets series in June, the city has redesigned 14 intersections to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The busy downtown intersection of Yonge and Richmond is one of 14 locations that city has redesigned with pedestrian safety in mind.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

The busy downtown intersection of Yonge and Richmond is one of 14 locations that city has redesigned with pedestrian safety in mind.

Metro launched its Toronto’s Deadly Streets campaign in June with the goal of making road safety a priority at City Hall. This week, Metro looks back on how far Toronto has come on the issue — and the role our coverage played in making streets safer. 

Toronto is no longer “sitting on its hands” when it comes to redesigning roads to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists, says the city’s traffic safety manager.

In the past, safety improvements were only made to intersections if other road construction or maintenance was scheduled. That was a cost-saving measure.

But, under its new road safety regime, the city is getting proactive.

“I’m not waiting on the road reconstruction guys anymore. I’m telling them which intersections to do,” said Roger Browne, head of traffic safety at City Hall.

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Since June, the city has reconfigured 14 intersections to improve safety, and more changes are on the way in 2017.

In many cases, the curbs were made larger, forcing cars to slow down when turning and reducing the crossing distances for pedestrians.

Many of the 14 intersections are located downtown – including Richmond and Yonge streets – but others are as far north as Bayview and Finch avenues. Each of the crossings was identified by staff as a hotspot for pedestrian and cyclists collisions.

Officials hope the changes will reduce the number of pedestrians killed in collisions. To date, 43 pedestrians have died this year – the highest number since 2002.

“Fundamentally, from a design perspective, we’re doing anything we can to minimize pedestrian exposure to vehicles,” Browne said.

At Dundas and River streets, an entire right-turn slip lane was removed. While popular with drivers, the lanes – which allow right-turning cars to bypass traffic signals – are considered dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists because they allow for turns at higher speeds.

“The local councillor had been trying to get that done for two years. Now, through the road safety plan, it was finally addressed,” said Coun. Jaye Robinson, chair of the city’s public works committee and an architect of the road plan.

Robinson says the revamped intersections are proof Toronto is turning the corner on road safety, acknowledging that the design of our streets is as – or more – important than enforcement or education campaigns.

“We’ve got a new lens on road safety in Toronto, and that’s engineering,” she said. 

Metro Effect

Coun. Jaye Robinson credited Metro’s coverage with generating the political will necessary to expand the city’s road safety plan. After the series was published, the plan’s budget was boosted by $12 million and its timeline was accelerated.

“I will fully admit that your publication has influenced this and probably aided in it being accelerated,” Robinson told Metro on Monday. “It's really brought it to the forefront and pushed both me as the person who spearheaded the initiative and staff to move forward quickly and fast track things.”

Read to learn more about Metro's series Toronto's Deadly Streets.

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