Dangerous summer for Toronto pedestrians and cyclists
By Mike Layton
Recent statistics from the Toronto Police Service show a disturbing trend — collisions between vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists are on the rise.
Since June 1 of this year 542 pedestrians and 541 cyclists, a total of 1,083 people, have been hit by drivers (cars) and there may be more, since many go unreported. This is an increase of almost 10 per cent over this time last year. Twelve of these collisions were fatal. This means there are close to 10 collisions daily and someone is killed once every two weeks. Sadly, last year 39 pedestrians and four cyclists were killed in collisions.
We also have a responsibility to build our streets in a way that creates a safer environment for the most vulnerable road users.
Our city must recognize that some street users are more vulnerable than others and every effort must be made to protect these vulnerable road users. Sometimes these changes impact the convenience of other road users, but we value safer streets, and saving lives, over convenience.
Yes, part of the solution is everyone following the rules of the road. Pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, delivery vehicles, and drivers, we all have rules to follow and when we break them, we put ourselves and others at risk. However, we also have a responsibility to build our streets in a way that creates a safer environment for the most vulnerable road users.
There is a movement and policy around the world called Vision Zero and New York, London, and many other cities are adopting it. Vision Zero demands more action by their city governments to prevent the deaths of vulnerable road users.
Toronto could be doing much more. Earlier this summer, Toronto City Council passed a new Road Safety Plan, but failed to fund it properly. In the Road Safety Plan, we committed to Vision Zero, but we did not act to achieve it.
Council voted against Councillor Wong-Tam’s motion, which I supported, to accelerate the funding for this plan so we could implement it sooner and save more lives. Councillors passed a Road Safety Plan without doing everything we could to implement it; they voted and said they believed in Vision Zero, but didn’t put the resources in place to save more lives sooner.
In June, city council adopted a new Ten Year Cycling Network Plan as a roadmap to improve safety across Toronto. This plan includes 525 kilometres of cycling infrastructure (190 kilometres of which are on quiet streets). Like the Road Safety Plan, the Bike Plan is a good idea on paper that will make Toronto streets safer, but council failed to adequately fund it. City Council voted against my motion to accelerate the funding for the cycling network so that we can save more lives sooner. Instead they supported building the 10-year plan, but doing it in 12 years.
One positive story is a motion that I was able to pass in my role as Toronto and East York Community Council chair. Recognizing that speed kills and that as vehicle speed decreases the risk of a fatality decreases dramatically, last year we voted to reduce the speed limit on all local residential streets in the former City of Toronto and East York boundaries to 30 kilometres per hour. The speed limit changes are being rolled out this year and early next year.
Earlier this month, Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, High Park) introduced a similar motion at the Etobicoke York Community Council to reduce the speed limit on all local residential roads to 30 kilometres per hour in the former cities of Etobicoke and York, but the proposal was defeated by a vote of 9 to 2.
We need to do better as a city. Over 1,083 people hit by drivers in a four-month period is unacceptable and is a clear sign that we need to place safety over convenience and reprioritize our city resources to save more lives sooner. I recognize change on our roads is difficult, but we should have no choice in this matter.
We must protect the lives of vulnerable road users first and invest in building a safer and more sustainable city.
Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.
NEWS: Bikes blessed for another season (June 2016)
LETTER: Keep pushing bike safety (September 2015)
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