Toronto City Council backed a $52-million boost for road safety over the next five years, beating back an attempt to speed up the plan and in the process calling for a ban on pedestrians using electronic devices while on the road.
The new road-safety plan was approved amid a spate of pedestrian fatalities and barely a week after a senior was killed riding a bicycle. It still needs to survive the city's budgetary process, and finding about 10 per cent of the money will require going cap-in-hand to Ottawa.
Council also voted to request the head of the transportation department "consider" accelerating the five-year plan to two years, rejecting a motion by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that effectively instructed him to do so.
The road-safety plan is Toronto's version of Vision Zero, a Swedish approach that aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. It calls for about $80-million in safety-related spending over five years, up from the $68-million proposed by staff a few weeks ago.
The plan is bulked out by the addition of efforts that would have happened anyway, though, with about $52-million of the funds being new money.
"This council has spent billions of dollars ... to get people from A to B five minutes faster," Ms. Wong-Tam said. "We're struggling to find a little bit of money to keep people safe."
The plan comes amid a worsening toll for pedestrians in Toronto. A recent Globe and Mail investigation into the more than 160 people run down since 2011 found that seniors were disproportionately affected, and that drivers were at fault in the majority of cases.
Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb said the current road safety plan has "some good building blocks" but that it remains too hesitant and has too little funding.
"The real problem here is that people are going to continue to die on streets of Toronto in preventable traffic-related collisions," he said.
The vote came with a spate of motions that included calls for speed limit changes on specific streets and a call to ask the province to consider allowing parking-enforcement personnel to issue speeding tickets on some roads. But it was the push to ban pedestrians using electronic devices that sparked the biggest response.
The motion came from Councillor Frances Nunziata and originally referred specifically to texting while crossing the street. It was then amended to asking the province to consider banning "actively using a handheld wireless communication device or handheld electronic entertainment device while on any travelled portion of a roadway."
Amid mirth from opponents, which prompted Ms. Nunziata to exclaim "it's a very serious motion," it passed 26-15, with Mayor John Tory in favour.