Pedes­trian deaths plague Toronto

Mayor Tory joins cities across North Amer­ica and in Europe in adopt­ing Vi­sion Zero

Annex Post - - NEWS - KAREN STINTZ

There is no ques­tion that Toronto is one of the safest cities in North Amer­ica. Yet, more than 500 pedes­tri­ans were struck by ve­hi­cles, and 43 were killed as a re­sult of be­ing hit by a car last year, a 15 per cent in­crease. All of these in­ci­dents were pre­ventable.

In re­sponse, Toronto joined cities across North Amer­ica and Europe and adopted Vi­sion Zero to elim­i­nate pedes­trian deaths across the city in five years.

Vi­sion Zero is a strat­egy that started in Swe­den in 1997. The core prin­ci­ple of the strat­egy is that noth­ing is more im­por­tant than the health and safety of users of the trans­porta­tion net­work.

To achieve the ob­jec­tive, the trans­porta­tion sys­tem of a city or re­gion should be de­signed to en­sure the safety of the in­di­vid­u­als who use the sys­tem, even if the trade-off is con­ve­nience or speed. To that end, the road net­works in Swe­den have been de­signed with turn­ing cir­cles, which re­quire cars to slow down, and sep­a­ra­tion of road space for cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans. From 1997 to 2011, fa­tal­i­ties across the coun­try re­duced from 541 to 314 for driv­ers, cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.

In Toronto, Vi­sion Zero is fo­cused on re­duc­ing pedes­trian, cy­clist and mo­tor­cy­clist fa­tal­i­ties. Based on data from Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice (TPS), the city has been able to iden­tify the most dan­ger­ous in­ter­sec­tions and de­signed a strat­egy specif­i­cally for those lo­ca­tions.

Gen­er­ally, the in­ter­sec­tions where pedes­tri­ans are more likely to be struck are on the main ar­ter­ies, and the ma­jor­ity of those killed are se­niors. In­clement weather was not a fac­tor in the data col­lected by TPS.

Mayor Tory set a tar­get of re­duc­ing pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties by 20 per cent but then set a more am­bi­tious goal of zero deaths.

I would ex­pect most would agree with that goal. How­ever, achiev­ing that goal would re­quire a ma­jor reengi­neer­ing of our road net­works and a se­ri­ous re­con­sid­er­a­tion of how we drive our cars across town.

It is not rea­son­able to ex­pect that all ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions will be­come turn­ing cir­cles and bikes will be com­pletely sep­a­rated from cars. It is dif­fi­cult to com­pletely re­design the road net­work in a built-up city.

A key fac­tor in pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties is the speed of the ve­hi­cle. The chances of a pedes­trian fa­tal­ity in­crease ex­po­nen­tially when a pedes­trian is struck by a car trav­el­ling faster than 30 kilo­me­tres per hour. The city pol­icy states that any road with a speed limit of 30 kilo­me­tres re­quires speed bumps, and speed bumps are not rea­son­able on many roads.

Given these lim­i­ta­tions, the city’s ap­proach is to tar­get spe­cific in­ter­sec­tions and im­ple­ment mea­sures de­signed to slow down traf­fic, im­prove in­fra­struc­ture and in­crease aware­ness.

The in­ter­ven­tions will in­clude bet­ter lights, longer cross­ing sig­nals and bet­ter en­force­ment.

Watch Your Speed signs will alert driv­ers to how fast they are go­ing, and many neigh­bour­hoods across the city have put up lawn signs re­mind­ing driv­ers to drive care­fully through the streets.

The ap­proach seems to be work­ing.

In June of this year, pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties were half of what they were the pre­vi­ous year, but that is still no rea­son to cel­e­brate. One of the vic­tims was a five-year old boy.

Let’s hope Mayor Tory will achieve his goal. That would be good news for every­body.

A pedes­trian was struck by a car at Yonge and Eglin­ton this past Septem­ber

Karen Stintz is a for­mer city coun­cil­lor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 16 with her fam­ily.

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