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
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,