High number of pedestrian fatalities in Toronto prompt calls for action

An unusually high number of pedestrians were struck and killed by vehicles in Toronto over the first three months of 2018, raising concerns among safety advocates, city planners, and personal injury lawyers. As of March 19, 11 fatalities and numerous serious injuries had been recorded.

The spike in fatalities caught the attention of some of the city’s most prominent decision-makers.

“We cannot have this carnage continue,” Mayor John Tory told reporters following the death of an 11-year-old boy in Scarborough. “I think when you have deaths taking place like this, that’s a crisis.”

During a February panel discussion at the University of Toronto, former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said the city faced a safety emergency.

“Our street are unsafe,” she told the audience. “Children and elderly people … are at risk going about their daily lives because of the design of our streets. It’s something we can change. It’s within our power to change it.”

On March 26th, Friends and Families for Safe Streets, an organization consisting of survivors of traffic collisions and friends and families whose loved ones have been killed, organized a “die-in” at Nathan Phillips Square to demand action to improve road safety in Toronto. The demonstration coincided with a city council vote on a major redesign of a stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues. The proposed changes included wider sidewalks, reduced driving lanes, and added bike lanes in accordance with recommendations from city staff. The plan, dubbed Transform Yonge, had support from road safety advocates, city planning experts, personal injury lawyers, and local councillor John Filion.

“If you narrow a road and you put a number of different users on the road, you’re going to improve the safety because you’re making a street more of a shared opportunity and more of a complete street,” said Cherise Burda, director of Ryerson University’s City Building Institute, according to CP24. “People are looking, people are slowing down, there’s more going on on the street.”

A counterproposal supported by Mayor John Tory and the city’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee would maintain the existing six lanes of traffic while widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes to a parallel street.

City council eventually voted 20-15 to defer the Transform Yonge plan, saying more study was necessary.

The deferment will not sit well with safety advocates who believe that deprioritizing cars is the key to protecting pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

“There’s no sugar-coating it: We can only make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists when road space is taken away from cars,” wrote Brian Doucet, an associate professor in School of Planning at the University of Waterloo in an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail. “The cycling infrastructure that Mr. Tory would like to see in North York is designed not to upset, or slow down drivers. Transformative infrastructure the dominance of the car while enabling people to safely switch from driving their cars to using bikes, transit or walking.”

“Look how hard we have to fight to get one safe, complete street being built,” said Friends and Families for Safe Streets spokesperson Kasia Breigmann-Samson to CP24 during the Nathan Phillips Square protest. “The city should be falling over itself implementing complete and safe streets across the city. The fact that it’s even being debated is appalling.”

If you, a member of your family, or someone you love has been injured in a traffic collision in Toronto or the GTA, contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help.


Image credit: Joseph Morris/Flickr

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