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The Globe and Mail

Toronto to add red-light cameras, revamp risky intersections for seniors

Pedestrians cross the street at Yonge and Dundas streets in Toronto, Ont., on Dec. 29, 2016.


Toronto is planning to double the number of red-light cameras and tackle a dozen sites where older pedestrians are particularly at risk, part of the city's response to the deadliest year for people walking in more than a decade.

The new measures were detailed Tuesday morning near the intersection of Dundas and Bloor Streets. The spot, one of those chosen for a revamp, was the scene of four pedestrian deaths and five serious injuries in recent years, all of them seniors.

Councillor and public works and infrastructure committee chair Jaye Robinson said that the "seniors safety zone" created in the area includes a reduction in the speed limit from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour and an extension of the amount of walking time given to pedestrians in the intersection. There will also be new signs warning drivers to slow down and watch for seniors and updated paint on the pavement.

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The Globe and Mail counted 46 pedestrians killed last year. The police, who use a more restrictive definition that wouldn't include, for example, someone killed walking on a provincial highway within the city, said that 43 pedestrians had died. Either tally makes 2016 the worst year since at least 2003. Those over 65, who make up only 14 per cent of the city's population, accounted for two-thirds of the victims.

"We're here to declare … that these are preventable deaths," said Mayor John Tory, joining Ms. Robinson and Police Chief Mark Saunders at the event. "We are taking realistic measures."

As well as the senior zones, the city is planning to add 76 red-light cameras, roughly doubling the number currently in place. The planned locations are a mix of downtown and suburban sites and include some spots notorious for cars blocking the intersection, endangering pedestrians and impeding vehicle traffic.

The city says that serious collisions at spots that currently have these cameras are down 60 per cent since they were put in place. According to Mr. Tory, he would "still be happy" if the cameras generate no revenue, because it would indicate drivers were being more safe. City staff are aiming to have the cameras operational within the first three months of the year.

Last year, city council approved a safety plan with the explicit aim of reducing road deaths and serious injuries to zero within five years. Mr. Tory supported a more modest plan initially presented and then, when that plan was widely panned as too timid, put his weight behind a beefed-up version. On Tuesday, he would not be drawn on the trend-line he needed to see this year to be sure the plan was working, saying only that the goal was to get to zero.

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To move in that direction, the city has chosen 12 spots where history has shown seniors to be at risk. Most of these locations are outside the city core – the only downtown location is where Dundas intersects with Spadina – and many are on high-speed suburban arterials that pose great risk to pedestrians. Among them is the intersection of Eglinton and Midland avenues, where two pedestrians were killed in 2016.

"We want to do things in a strategic way," Ms. Robinson said Tuesday, saying they were aiming to re-do these spots within the first three months of the year.

This year staff also plan to re-engineer 13 bits of roadway, making modifications such as widening the sidewalk or extending the curb, in hopes of making them safer. And they are planning safety audits at 14 other locations, trying to figure out why pedestrians are being hit there and determining what changes need to be made.

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