Toronto Mayor John Tory has signalled he is open to broad-based reductions in speed limits on the city’s major roads and more red-light cameras, indicating that he will ask staff for a report looking at ways to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths.
The move by Mr. Tory comes nearly three years after the city introduced a Vision Zero road safety plan aimed at eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries. Municipal politicians have added funding to the plan several times, but critics say it has not brought about a meaningful change in the number of people being hurt and killed. According to a Globe and Mail tally, 46 pedestrians and cyclists were fatally struck in Toronto last year, six more than in 2017.
The mayor also pledged to keep working for provincial approval of speed-enforcement cameras. Data collected from the cameras now being tested suggest that speeding is endemic in the city, with approximately one-fifth of drivers on some arterial roads driving at least 10 kilometres an hour over the limit. Maximum recorded speeds were as high as five times the limit.
There is no additional funding associated with what Mr. Tory called Vision Zero 2.0. In a speech Wednesday at the Empire Club of Canada the mayor explained that staff analysis of pedestrian deaths in Scarborough helped convince him of the need for a stronger approach.
“Clearly, our experience in Scarborough and across the city has indicated we have to do more,” he told the audience, adding later in his speech: “We simply have to do a better job of catching and penalizing those drivers who clearly disregard pedestrian safety and endanger others.”
Many roads in Scarborough are emblematic of the traffic-hazards problem in Toronto. Road-safety experts, activists and media reports have long noted that its wide streets encourage drivers to go quickly and its long blocks encourage pedestrians to cross wherever it is most convenient. When people are hit, the relatively high speed limits on these roads make these collisions more likely to be deadly.
Mr. Tory cited some of these same factors in explaining why he will seek a staff report looking at the possibility of lower speeds on arterial roads, the installation of more infrastructure to allow people to cross safely mid-block and a boost in the number of red-light cameras.
The report will likely be assigned to staff at the next infrastructure committee meeting, in April. It’s not clear how long the report will take to produce and be passed by council, but Mr. Tory said he expected to start seeing changes on the roads “in a fairly short order.”