Welcome to the most dangerous time to be a pedestrian in Toronto
Metro analysis shows last three months of the year pose the most risk, and this year we're off to a bad start.
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October marks the beginning of the darkest period of the year for Toronto’s pedestrians, according to a Metro analysis — and this year’s death count is putting road safety back in the spotlight at city hall.
Among the dead so far this month: a 24-year-old York University student hit near campus, a 63-year-old woman killed in a North York hit-and-run and a 21-year-old woman hit while hailing a cab on Yonge near Lawrence. Among the injured: a child struck while reportedly stepping off a streetcar at Danforth and Main, as well as a woman hit by a bus at Danforth and Eglinton.
For the past two years, October, November and December have accounted for over a third of all serious pedestrian crashes, according to Toronto Police data.
Last year, a total of 57 pedestrians were seriously injured or killed between October and December, compared to 110 over the first three quarters of the year.
In 2015, even more — 62 — were seriously injured or killed between October and December, compared to 91 in the first three quarters of the year.
Road-safety advocates say better lighting is one way to deal with the annual spike as drivers deal with shorter days, facing standard rush-hour volume at dusk.
Coun. Jaye Robinson, who is spearheading the city’s $80.3-million road-safety overhaul, called autumn “the most challenging time of year.”
The road-safety plan includes measures to deal with the season’s shorter days, such as reviewing street lights, making pedestrian crossings more visible and lowering speed limits.
Recent crashes prompted calls to fast-track the plan, rolling it out over two years instead of five. A report on what that would entail is expected in November.
But the plan itself remains too weak to force real change, said Maureen Coyle, a member of Walk Toronto. She and other advocates want more than tweaks to existing infrastructure and want more dedicated money flowing out of city hall to make changes happen.
One fix that could come sooner rather than later: addressing speed.
Ontario’s Safer School Zones Act, passed this year, is expected to give cities the power to lower default speed limits by the summer of 2018, Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols wrote in an email to Metro. The speed limit is currently 50 km/h in urban areas unless marked otherwise.
Lower speeds would be a solid step in the right direction, said lawyer and safe-streets advocate Albert Koehl.
“Our children and our loved ones can’t wait 10 years for that road design to be put in place,” Koehl said, referencing the city’s road-safety plan. “Speed is one of those factors we keep coming back to because we can control it.”
Pedestrians killed on Toronto's streets:
2017 so far: 28
Source: Toronto Police. (Numbers don't include people hit on private property.)