Change needed af­ter mul­ti­ple cy­clist deaths on city streets

Sev­eral promi­nent ur­ban plan­ners and politi­cians called for change on Wed­nes­day, the day af­ter the lat­est death of a pedes­trian or cy­clist on city streets

StarMetro Toronto - - COVER STORY - David Rider and Sa­man­tha Beat­tie

A surge in cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans dy­ing on Toronto streets is trig­ger­ing de­mands that Mayor John Tory, city coun­cil and the On­tario govern­ment act now to stop the car­nage.

“I am calling for a state of emer­gency, which means treat­ing this cri­sis as a high pri­or­ity and in­vest­ing in im­me­di­ate mea­sures to cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment for vul­ner­a­ble road users,” Jen­nifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s for­mer chief plan­ner, now a Univer­sity of Toronto lec­turer, told the Star Wed­nes­day.

“The SARS cri­sis took 44 lives in Canada. Ninety-three pedes­tri­ans or cy­clists have died on the streets of Toronto since Vi­sion Zero was im­ple­mented two years ago. The time for half-mea­sures is over — and the half mea­sures are not work­ing, any­way.”

Jes­sica Spieker, who suf­fered a bro­ken spine and brain in­jury when a car hit her bike in 2015, said coun­cil is “hor­ri­bly fail­ing” im­ple­ment­ing Vi­sion Zero — a plan to re­duce traf­fic deaths to zero by 2021 — when more, not fewer, peo­ple are dy­ing.

“The im­pact is lit­er­ally life and death — peo­ple are dy­ing hor­ri­bly vi­o­lent, bloody bru­tal deaths un­nec­es­sar­ily be­cause it seems we lack the po­lit­i­cal will to im­ple­ment so­lu­tions,’ said Spieker, a mem­ber of ad­vo­cacy group Friends and Fam­i­lies for Safe Streets.

“It’s pretty clear we have lead­er­ship that doesn’t re­ally mind sacri­fic­ing pedes­trian and cy­clist lives to make sure our streets are con­ve­nient for peo­ple who drive cars.”

Richard Florida, a renowned Univer­sity of Toronto cities ex­pert who im­mi­grated from the U.S. a decade ago, called ef­forts by Tory, his coun­cil al­lies and the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble road users “shock­ingly ne­glect­ful.”

“The way in which Amer­i­cans dis­count gun deaths, Toron­to­ni­ans and their lead­ers seem to dis­count car-re­lated deaths — like there’s noth­ing we can do about it,” he said.

By the Star’s count there were

41 pedes­trian deaths in 2017, and

18 so far this year. Toronto po­lice traf­fic fa­tal­ity fig­ures are lower be­cause they do not in­clude those on pri­vate prop­erty or 400-se­ries high­ways in Toronto, which are the ju­ris­dic­tion of the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice. The official po­lice tally for

2017 was 36, and the force says 17 pedes­tri­ans have died in 2018.

For the same rea­son, the Star’s count of cy­clist deaths is also higher than Toronto po­lice fig­ures. The Star has counted four cy­clist deaths this year, po­lice have counted three, ex­clud­ing the March 20 death of a cy­clist who hit a parked car in North York.

Nei­ther tally in­cludes vic­tims of homi­cide, such as those killed in the Yonge St. van ram­page.

A 58-year-old woman was killed Tues­day while rid­ing in a pro­tected Bloor St. bike lane when she col­lided with a turn­ing flatbed truck at Bloor St., W. and St. Ge­orge St. Of­fi­cers on Tues­day also an­nounced a 36-year-old cy­clist hit May 15 on Lake Shore Boul. W. died from his in­juries last week.

And po­lice have asked the public for help find­ing a hit-and-run driver who killed a fe­male pedes­trian at Briar Hill Ave. and Duf­ferin St. on Mon­day at 3 p.m.

Tory and his public works chair Coun. Jaye Robin­son are tout­ing steps in­clud­ing new bike lanes and es­tab­lish­ing “safety zones” around all el­e­men­tary schools,

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