News / Toronto

Anger as City proposes the public donate to pay for road-safety plan

Advocates for road safety — and people who have lost loved ones — criticize transportation report's pay-as-you-go suggestion.

The city's road-safety plan aims to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

The city's road-safety plan aims to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Road-safety advocates are chastising the city after its transportation services department floated plans to accept public donations to improve road safety.

A progress report on the 2017-2021 Vision Zero Road Safety Plan (RSP), which goes before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday, suggests "interested" residents could offer donations and recommend places to use the funds.

"It's the government's job, whether federal, provincial or municipal, to ensure safety for all," said Graham Larkin, of road-safety group Vision Zero Canada.

The idea is being considered for rollout by the end of 2018, according to the report.

“It's a slippery slope when you start making public safety optional or pay-as-you-go,” Larkin said. “Safe, convenient mobility is not a perk for 'interested' parties or for people who can best afford it. It's a basic human right, and the city needs to act accordingly.”

In the years ahead, the city could look to boost coffers via tax-deductible e-donations, “to help offset future cost for acceleration and expansion of different countermeasures and programs within (the) RSP,” the report reads.

Toronto's Animal Services division already uses a similar system, in which donations can’t top $50,000 or be solicited by the city “through a fundraising campaign or otherwise,” the report adds.

Kasia Briegmann-Samson, who lost her husband Tom, 35, when he was struck by a minivan as he rode his bicycle in the city in 2012, said road safety should not be treated as a “frill.”

“I think it mocks the pain and suffering that my family, and other families, have gone through,” she said. “It treats road safety like something that’s nice to have, rather than a necessity.”

Among the progress noted in the report are 837 speed-limit signs across 39 areas that have had their limits reduced by 10 kilometres per hour as well as a number of cycling projects, including six bike lanes and three cycle tracks.

But Briegmann-Samson, who as co-founder of Friends and Families for Safe Streets has pushed for a city speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour, said the road-safety plan has “always been inadequate."

“It’s just not enough,” she said. “It’s underfunded, and the report highlights that.”

The city approved the five-year plan in July 2016, earmarking $80.3 million to cover cyclists, motorcyclists, the elderly, pedestrians and school children, as well as aggressive and distracted drivers.

The update report, in its own words, “considers the feasibility of accepting donations from the public to provide funding support for local projects” and adds that under a new, accelerated program, "The online donations application will be available by the fourth quarter of 2018."

Barbara Gray, general manager of transportation services, said the report is merely a set of guidelines that the committee “may send back " to staff for more work and that the donations were only examined after a motion to do so was adopted by council in late 2016.

“I think it’s very, very preliminary to say that we’d take public donations to fund transportation infrastructure,” she said. “This is something that, in the implementation, would take a lot more feasibility analysis to go forward.”

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