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Toronto's Deadly Streets in review: Lower speed limits save lives

The city's accelerated road safety plan has already lowered speed limits on 14 streets, and city officials say more speed reductions are on the way.

The city identified the portion of Yonge south of Bloor Street as a pedestrian priority corridor and moved to lower the speed limit to 40 km/hr earlier this year.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

The city identified the portion of Yonge south of Bloor Street as a pedestrian priority corridor and moved to lower the speed limit to 40 km/hr earlier this year.

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 speeding up its efforts to slow cars down.

Since June, the city has installed 400 new speed limit signs along 14 roads designated as “pedestrian priority corridors.” In each case, the speed limit was lowered by 10 km/h.

It’s work that wouldn’t have been done until 2017 if the road safety plan hadn’t been accelerated, said Roger Browne, the city’s traffic safety manager.

“We’re very supportive of the strategy of reducing speed on city streets,” Browne said. “The lesser the speed, the more likely that if there’s an incident, the pedestrian will live.”

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Numerous studies show that a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car travelling at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of survival. That number drops below 50 per cent if the car is travelling at 50 km/h.

Browne has been with the city for three years and, even in that short time, he’s seen the perception around speed limits change. In particular, there’s growing recognition that lowering speed limits doesn’t necessarily increase traffic congestion.

“What we’re trying to do is curb speeding and aggressive driving,” he said. “And that’s different from the fluid motion of traffic.”

Despite progress, safety advocates have been critical of the city for not lowering speed limits on major arterial streets outside the downtown. Roads like Eglinton, for instance – where eight pedestrians have been killed this year – have been left untouched.

However, Browne says that could change next year.

“We’re not going to stop,” he said. “We’re going to look at the 2015 and 2016 data and identify more corridors that could be reduced in speed.”

Metro Effect

Lawyer Patrick Brown, founder of Bike Law Canada, said Metro’s Deadly Streets series “humanized” the issue of road safety and encouraged a broader call for safer streets.

“Following Metro’s reporting, more individuals mobilized around the effort to bring change.  Friends and Families for Safe Street came about.  We were able to get meetings with the police, the Minister of Transport, and the Office of the Attorney General. The other media outlets woke up. Guys in my hockey dressing room were talking about road violence,” he said. 

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