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Complete Streets: can redesigned roads improve safety in Toronto?

  • January 24, 2017
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • car accident, car accident lawyer, complete streets, Personal Injury Lawyer, road safety, Toronto, Toronto personal injury lawyer,

Over the past two years, staffers at the City of Toronto have developed “Complete Streets Guidelines” to serve as a roadmap for the redesign and redevelopment of several of the city’s roads. According to the city’s website, Complete Streets “are streets that are designed to be safe for all users, such as people who walk, bicycle, take transit or drive, and people of varying levels of ability.” The redesigned roadways would also incorporate elements such as sidewalk cafes, street furniture, street trees, and stormwater management.

Toronto’s road users have endured a particularly dangerous 2016, with pedestrian deaths in particular attracting public attention. It is the hope of city planners, politicians, Toronto personal injury lawyers, and victims’ rights advocates that Complete Streets will improve road safety in Canada’s largest city.

Components of Complete Streets

Complete Streets reimagine the full space between properties on opposite sides of a road, including the roadway itself, transit lanes, cycling lanes, pedestrian areas, and other amenities.

Roadway

The city has selected various types of streets to redesign as part of the Complete Streets pilot project, from busy downtown roads to smaller residential ones. On wider roads with heavier traffic, lanes for private vehicles would be narrowed and reduced, speed limits lowered, and turning radiuses tightened. In some residential areas, roads may be transformed into shared spaces, where pedestrians would intermingle with drivers moving at a walking pace.

Transit

Public transit vehicles will be given designated lanes. By segregating streetcars in particular, the city hopes to improve the dependency and efficiency of public transit to make it a more attractive option for commuters. If all goes according to plan, this would reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

Active Transit and Pedestrians

Under the Complete Streets Guidelines, cyclists and pedestrians would be given new prominence. By narrowing traffic lanes, the city will be able to widen sidewalks and create segregated cycling lanes. Combined with reduced speed limits, these actions could greatly improve the safety of Toronto’s vulnerable road users.

Amenities

The guidelines aspire to make Toronto’s roads an attractive third place – somewhere between work and home – for residents to gather and spend time. By planting trees, installing benches and public art, and creating space for cafes and restaurants to expand outwards, Complete Streets encourage a vibrant and attractive public environment.

Safety First

Improving public safety is the primary endeavor of the Complete Streets Guidelines. As Toronto personal injury lawyers know, 2016 has been a violent year for the city’s vulnerable road users. Complete Streets are designed to reduce the prevalence of motor vehicle accidents, and to mitigate their impact when they do occur. Lowering speed limits and designing roads to reflect those limits is a proven means of reducing fatal pedestrian accidents.

“Slapping up a sign … is not going to work; the competition for space is too great and we’re seeing increased desire to use that space in different kinds of ways,” Maureen Coyle of advocacy group Walk Toronto told the Globe and Mail. “So instead of saying, ‘Let’s clamp down, let’s punish after that fact,’ let’s engineer the space so [a collision] can’t happen, or when it does happen, let’s mitigate the effects.”

Obstacles

Although many of Toronto’s public figures – including the city’s new general manager of transportation, Barbara Gray – are fans of Complete Streets, there are numerous obstacles to their implementation. The car has been king for decades in North America, and Complete Streets represent a shifting of power.

“Projects that alter streetscapes upset people who naturally cling to stability, even if that stability is unsafe of inefficient,” writes Janette Sadik-Khan, former transportation commissioner for New York City, in her memoir, Street Fight. “The flip side is that once change is in place, it becomes the new norm and frames expectations of citizens.”

“We know that designing our streets differently saves lives,” Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmat told the Globe. “The question is: Are we prepared to tolerate, are we prepared to live in a city where preventable deaths are not prevented?”

Police, activists, Toronto personal injury lawyers, and others who work directly with accident victims understand the devastating toll that preventable road accidents can have on a person’s life. But without firsthand experience, these impacts can be hard to communicate to average taxpayers who are unenthusiastic about expensive road redesigns.

Hurt in an accident? We can help.

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Toronto personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. They can help you understand your legal footing and get you access to the resources and compensation you need to facilitate your recovery.

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