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Toronto's Deadly Streets in review: Pedestrians given more time at crosswalks

Since the summer, the city has extended crossing times for pedestrians at 37 intersections.

University and College is one of the many spots where the city has increased pedestrian crossing times.

Lance McMillan/For Metro

University and College is one of the many spots where the city has increased pedestrian crossing times.

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 giving pedestrians a bit more time.

Since the city’s $80-million road safety plan was approved last summer, the city has increased the pedestrian crossing times at 37 different intersections. Additional intersections are slated to be re-timed in the new year.

“It really is about putting pedestrians first,” said Roger Browne, Toronto’s manager of traffic safety. “They need enough time to cross the street so they’re not feeling rushed or competing with vehicles in the process.”

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Crossing times have been a point of contention in Toronto all year. During an enforcement blitz in June, police targeted pedestrians who started crossing after the flashing hand sign began counting down, going as far as to block them from crossing the street so cars could turn.

Pedestrian advocates hit back, saying inadequate crossing times made it impossible to cross the road legally in some areas.

Browne believes the changes made this year will make it easier for pedestrians to get where they’re going safely and within the confines of the law.

The new standard for crossing time assumes pedestrians travel at roughly one metre per second. However, Browne said the city is looking to grant more time in areas with high concentrations of seniors.

Elderly residents comprise a disproportionate number of fatal pedestrian collisions in the city, and the road safety plan identifies them as a priority.

“There’s a city-wide mandate to increase walk times, but with the road safety plan, we’re taking it a step further going into targeted areas and looking to increase walk times even further,” Browne said.

“Forget about one metre per second. We might even be looking at 0.9 metres or even 0.8 metres – that’s basically a shuffle.” 

Metro Effect

Kasia Briegmann-Samson said Metro’s Deadly Streets series has helped “sustain a public conversation on road violence.”

“By using words such as deadly instead dangerous and collision instead of accident, you have run the alarm and stopped the sugar coating,” she said.

Briegmann-Samson’s husband, Tom, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while cycling to work in 2012. This year, she co-founded Friends and Families for Safe Streets, a Toronto road safety advocacy group made up of people whose loved ones have been killed in collisions with drivers.

“I for one, no longer feel like I’m swimming against the current by protesting Tom’s death and what I’ve experienced since Tom’s death. I feel like your series has affirmed, yes, there is a crisis and it’s not all in my head – because that’s what it has felt like at times.

“Your work has made a difference to me.”

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