Toronto Announces Vision Zero 2.0; Road Safety Experts Unimpressed

The City of Toronto announced plans last month to revamp its Vision Zero road safety strategy, which failed to reduce traffic fatalities during its first three years in existence. “Vision Zero 2.0,” as it was described by Mayor John Tory at a press conference in Scarborough, will go further than its predecessor but is still considered too cautious by road safety activists and accident lawyers.

Slower speed limits are central to the plan. City staff proposed reducing limits from 60 km/h to 50 km/h on nearly 250 kilometres of road, and from 40 km/h to 30 km/h on all residential streets. Safety activists hoped the plan would cap speeds at 40 km/h across the city.

“They are clearly volunteering other people’s family members to be struck at speeds in excess of 50 km/h – there are areas where the limit remains 60 or even 70 km/h, and presumably councilors wouldn’t volunteer their own family members to be struck,” said Jess Spieker, a member of Friends and Families for Safe Streets, to the Toronto Star. “As long as vehicles are driving at fatal speeds, drivers will keep killing people.”

A significant body of research backs Spieker’s claims. The City’s report notes that a five per cent reduction in speeds can reduce chances of death by up to 20 per cent. It also shows that while 85 per cent of people struck by vehicles moving at 50 km/h are killed, more than two-thirds who are struck by vehicles at 40 km/h survive, as do roughly 90 per cent of people struck by vehicles moving at 30 km/h.

Other proposed changes include new “zebra” crosswalks at designated safety zones and adding sidewalks to streets without them or that only have them on one side.

“This is a good start, it’s going to help, but will it get us toward Vision Zero, of zero deaths? I don’t think so,” said Cycle Toronto’s Jared Kolb. “We would need bolder action for that.”

Vision Zero is a worldwide road safety project that aims to eliminate traffic deaths. Originating in Sweden in the late 1990s, Vision Zero has been adopted by North American cities like Vancouver, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. New York City’s Vision Zero strategy, which many accident lawyers consider a model for Toronto, focused on slowing traffic and installing separated bike lanes; road fatalities are now at their lowest point in a century. Toronto has failed to reproduce these positive results, but the latest changes may be a step in the right direction.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced accident lawyers can help you understand your legal options and provide guidance as you consider your next move. 

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