A surge in pedestrian deaths has Toronto’s mayor doubling down on a commitment to road safety amid criticism that he isn’t doing enough.
New measures announced by John Tory on Monday include installing signs near a dozen schools to remind drivers to slow down, and extending curbs with paint to reduce crossing distances.
The measures would be part of the city’s five-year “Vision Zero” plan that began last year. Council approved accelerating the plan earlier this year as part of the 2018 budget.
As of Monday, 11 pedestrians have been killed in the city compared to seven at the same time last year. In a high-profile case late last month, an 11-year-old boy was hit while walking home from school in the city’s east end, prompting calls to action from advocates and community members.
“We cannot have this carnage continue,” Tory told reporters the following day. “When you have deaths taking place like this, that’s a crisis.”
Pedestrian fatalities are a problem in cities across the country but Toronto leads the pack partly because it has more walkers, Gil Penalosa, urban planning consultant, said.
Halifax had its first pedestrian death in more than two years in late January when a 62-year-old man was hit by an alleged drunk driver. In Montreal, three pedestrians have died this year – about half the fatality rate in Toronto.
“In Montreal, they have been paying more attention,” said Penalosa, who runs 8 80 Cities, an urban-planning-focused non-profit organization.
Penalosa said Montreal’s recently elected mayor Valerie Plante has made pedestrians a priority whereas Tory’s goal seems to be moving cars. Tory, he said, should invest more in road safety and do things such as drop the speed limit in residential areas from 40 kilometres an hour to 30, and make streets narrower to slow traffic.
Toronto police Const. Clinton Stibbe said all road users – drivers, cyclists and pedestrians – shoulder responsibility for keeping roads safe. Improved infrastructure will take years to make a significant difference, so everyone must stay within the rules, he said.
“It’s not any sort of victim-blaming,” Stibbe said. “It’s identifying that everybody is making mistakes – not just one road-using group.”
Tory also launched a two-week awareness campaign called “Slow Down Toronto,” saying a change in behaviour will be the “single biggest contributor to improved safety in school zones.”
Hours after his announcement, a three-year-old was seriously hurt in a collision in the downtown core.