Gleaner

Serving Toronto's most liveable communities with the Annex Gleaner and Liberty Gleaner

FORUM: Status quo streets unsustainable (Fall 2021)

November 11th, 2021 · No Comments

Government must be proactive to protect cyclists, pedestrians 

By Mike Layton

As kids are finally settled into a new school year, road safety continues to be a priority for me. On one of my rides home this past month, I crossed paths with someone not older than 12 using the bike lane on Bloor Street to travel home from school with his backpack. This is not something we would have seen a few years ago and I was excited to see how many young people were making use of the new bike lane. 

As we travelled along the bike lane my mind went to all the intersections and routes across the city where more needs to be done to make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Following the devastating news about the death of an 18-year-old cyclist on our streets and several other reports of poor pedestrian safety this summer, I am working to get immediate intervention on Avenue Road, and other essential streets in the ward.

This young person’s death could have been prevented. It took place along a stretch of Avenue Road which council has previously identified for study for ActiveTO intervention and the installation of basic cycling infrastructure. Investing capital into transforming our streets is essential. Other cities across the world have done this, challenging the status quo, and prioritizing substantially bolder, safer streets.

We need a broad-based approach to proactively address roads with similar characteristics as Avenue Road:  major arterial roadways of six lanes or more with high speed limits to major destinations.

Our recent budgets have featured billions of dollars toward funding of repairs and construction on the Gardiner Expressway. Meanwhile we wait years for cheap, cost efficient cycling infrastructure that has been proven to make our roads safer for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

Immediately prior to the tragedy on Avenue Road, an area of cycling infrastructure just southeast on Bloor Street was obstructed by road work and insufficient signage, causing drivers to dangerously merge into the cycling lane, and leading to many near misses and other dangerous interactions. The following day, the same thing occurred at the southwest corner of the intersection. Council has repeatedly asked to review these issues, which come up frequently, and to make changes that would support the safety of residents. However, we continue to be met with delays.

I wrote a letter to the director of Transportation Services detailing the decisions council has made and how their implementation could have saved a life, and can save lives in the future. This letter advises staff to begin the installation of cycling infrastructure on Avenue Road; to expedite the Avenue Road Safety Coalition’s requests for intervention and extend this south of Davenport; to review the implementation of the 1-metre passing rule; and request a report on the existing construction practices and progress on fulfilling council’s directions.

I feel like a broken record due to the number of times I have said this, but we cannot stop fighting until we achieve change. 

In the absence of regulatory changes, and the political will and dedication of resources needed to impact behavioural change, the physical environment must be altered to reflect the vision of safety that we purport to support through Vision Zero.

Speaking of Vision Zero, the city is in the process of renewing its contract for the maintenance of our red light cameras. I have learned that there are no planned expansions of this program for at least 5 years. This expansion cannot wait. We have seen many intersections, like that at Christie and Dupont streets, where fatal collisions have occurred. We must fund the expansion of this program to deter people from speeding through intersections.

Council has also received a report that the presence of Automated Speed Enforcement is having a positive impact. There are currently only 50 ASE systems installed in Community Safety Zones near schools and there are two systems per ward to ensure an even distribution. 

City council must work to expand this program, in tandem with other measures to increase road safety and correct as many dangerous areas as possible in our continued work toward Vision Zero. I will be asking staff to report on costs to do so immediately in the hopes of having council support this important expenditure in the 2022 budget.

It’s been over 5 years of Vision Zero and we’re still missing the systemic, street-by-street approach that will prevent unnecessary deaths on our roads. 

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions and concerns at Councillor_Layton@toronto.ca

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 11, University—Rosedale.

READ MORE BY MIKE LAYTON:

Tags: Annex · Opinion