Toronto traffic deaths remain high despite $80M safety push
So far this year there have been 20 traffic deaths in Toronto. Eleven pedestrians have died, including one who was struck by a streetcar.
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Traffic deaths remain unacceptably high, say city officials, despite council adopting Toronto’s first comprehensive road safety plan last July.
At the second annual road safety summit at city hall on Wednesday advocates, police, and government officials gathered to discuss the progress of the $80-million, five-year safety push.
In her opening remarks public works chair Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West) highlighted measures already taken under the plan, which the city has labelled “Vision Zero” after the international movement aimed at completely eliminating traffic deaths.
She told reporters the plan was “an exciting initiative’ but conceded it has yet to be as effective as it needs to be, comments that were underscored by a collision that seriously injured a pedestrian blocks from city hall just hours before the summit convened.
“Let’s face it, our work is only just beginning,” Robinson said.
So far this year there have been 20 traffic deaths in Toronto. Eleven pedestrians have died, including one who was struck by a streetcar. The victims’ ages ranged from 6 to 90, although more than half of the pedestrians killed were older than 60, continuing a troubling historical trend that sees older people disproportionately affected by traffic incidents.
Eight drivers or car passengers have also died this year, as well as one motorcyclist.
In all of 2016 there were 77 road deaths, according to city data. The victims included 43 pedestrians, 27 motorists, 6 motorcyclists, and 1 cyclist. The numbers for both pedestrians and motorists were the highest in more than a decade.
The city’s road safety plan lays out six areas for action: pedestrians, school children, older adults, cyclists, motorcyclists, and aggressive and distracted driving. Some safety advocates have criticized the plan for not investing enough resources in preventing fatalities, but officials say it is statistics-based and targets parts of the road network with historically high collision rates.
“We are very data-driven, and not wanting to wait until we have a tragedy or an incident to take action,” said Barbara Gray, general manager of transportation.
Countermeasures that city has implemented so far include installing 400 reduced speed signs and upgrading pavement markings at 317 intersections along the 14 areas designated as “pedestrian safety corridors.”
The city has also made physical modifications to 14 intersections, increased pedestrian walk times at 37 intersections, and installed five automated “watch your speed” signs in school zones. There are plans to fast track the creation of additional “seniors safety zones” and to more than double the number of red light cameras to 149.
Summit participants included Cycle Toronto, the Toronto Police Service, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Canadian Automobile Association, and Arrive Alive, and some made suggestions for improving the safety plan.
They included putting a greater focus on marijuana-impaired driving as the federal government moves to legalize the drug next year, and making the pilot project of separated bike lanes on Bloor St. will be made permanent.
Robinson responded that the initial results of the pilot were “not very favourable.” Data released in February showed that in the lanes had increased driver time by as much as 8 minutes and 25 seconds, while boosting cycling rates by 36 per cent.
After the results were published the city said it was tweaking the road configuration and a report is expected back in the fall. “We'll have to just see what the analysis brings,” Robinson told the summit.
Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) argued that the city can’t rightly claim the Vision Zero mantle unless it endorses projects like the Bloor bike lanes. A vocal proponent of the project, he noted that city surveys found a majority of drivers and cyclists said the lanes make Bloor safer.
“The fact remains, if we’re going to be a Vision Zero city, we need to build infrastructure for other people rather than just drivers,” Layton said.