Toronto’s Vision Zero program stumbles


In June 2016, Toronto Mayor John Tory launched the Vision Zero initiative, an aggressive strategy to improve road safety in Canada’s biggest city. Like other Vision Zero programs around the world, Toronto’s version aimed to eliminate traffic deaths within five years, an ambitious goal that was lauded by Toronto personal injury lawyers and road safety advocates.

Unfortunately, Vision Zero hasn’t had the same effect in Toronto as in other major cities. More than 90 pedestrians or cyclists have been killed since June 2016, including almost 20 in 2018. If the current pace continues, this will be the deadliest year on record for the city’s vulnerable road users.

That’s why last month, when the City introduced its $118,000 “Vision Zero Challenge,” a competition soliciting innovative solutions to road safety issues from transit users, social scientists, activists, and other stakeholders, Toronto personal injury lawyers and safety advocates responded with exasperation.

“There are clear ways to get to Vision Zero,” consultant Colin Powell told CBC News Toronto. “Separated bike lanes, reducing the speed of cars on our roads … I think there are far better things we could be doing with our time and money.”

In New York City, traffic deaths fell 23 per cent in two years following the 2014 launch of its Vision Zero initiative; pedestrians deaths in have been halved since 2013, including a 32 per cent reduction in 2017 alone.

This drastic improvement has been attributed to reduced speed limits, a rapidly expanding network of bike lanes, and the installation of more advance green lights for pedestrians. These actions all required significant investment, but the results speak for themselves, and last year the Big Apple dedicated an additional $1.6-billion (US) in road safety spending over five years.

Despite committing just $87-million to its Vision Zero pursuit, the City of Toronto has made improvements in several areas. According to the Star, the initiative has led to ‘more than 800 new lower speed limits signs; about 20,000 kilometres of pavement painted with “zebra markings” in school safety zones, senior safety zones and pedestrian safety zones; 60 new accessible pedestrian signals; and at least 5,705 metres of new sidewalk.’ The city has also added seven kilometres of new bike track, more than six kilometres of new bike lanes, and cycling safety improvements at five intersections.

But that work hasn’t impressed advocates for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

“At the current rate it’s going to take a long time to even reduce pedestrian deaths significantly,” Dylan Reid, the co-founder of pedestrian advocacy group Walk Toronto, told the Star. “If you compare Toronto’s plan with true Vision Zero plans like in New York or Sweden, Toronto’s pace is nowhere near as ambitious in terms of its scope, or in terms of its investment.”

Each year, Toronto personal injury lawyers field many calls from cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured in collisions with motor vehicles. Changes must be made; reducing speed limits, for example, has been proven to dramatically reduce fatalities. Busy, dense global cities like Tokyo, Paris, and London have all reduced speed limits to 40 kilometres per hour or less, and each is considered significantly safer than Toronto in terms of traffic fatalities.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an automotive accident, contact the experienced Toronto personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help.


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Can cities do more to protect vulnerable road users?


A healthy, efficient, and safe transportation network is critical to every city’s economy. Yet, as personal injury lawyers in Toronto and the GTA know, pedestrians and cyclists are perhaps more at risk in 2018 than they have ever been.

Road safety experts believe that there are several keys to protecting vulnerable road users, including improved road design, infrastructure upgrades, and traffic law changes. Below, we’ll look at how each of these could help improve road safety in your community.

Road Design

Perhaps the most effective way to protect vulnerable road users is to design roads that take them into consideration from inception. This March, Reuters reported that Florida’s Complete Streets policy, a 1984 law mandating that road design accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, has led to a significant reduction in pedestrian deaths compared to other American states. Fatalities dropped about a half percent more per quarter than in the rest of the nation, resulting in an estimated 3,500 and 3,900 saved lives between 1984 and 2013.

“While our conversations often focus on the problem, far more infrequent are discussions that focus on solutions and ways to prevent these deaths,” University of Georgia researcher Jamila Porter told Reuters in an email. “Complete Streets policies are one such solution.”

Infrastructure Improvements

Designing roads from scratch isn’t an option in most major cities, which means steady infrastructure upgrades are necessary to improve safety. In Toronto, the city has widened sidewalks, implemented bike lanes, installed speed bumps, and added crosswalks, all for the purpose of making streets as useful and accessible for pedestrians and cyclists as they are for motor vehicles.

However, many stakeholders say the city’s process to implement traffic-calming measures is unnecessarily slow and complex, the Toronto Star reports.

Rule Changes

Safety advocates, including personal injury lawyers, believe that reduced speed limits could have a significant impact on road safety in the City of Toronto. In theory, lowering a speed limit in an area where motor vehicle collisions are common shouldn’t require years of planning or significant investment. But, as Walk Toronto’s Dylan Reid told the Star, the city’s process makes minor changes incredibly challenging to institute.

“It’s definitely conceived at the moment as a way of discouraging measures unless they’re so obviously required that (city officials) can’t say ‘no,’” he said. “As opposed to taking an approach that says, ‘we’re trying to make the city safer in every possible way.”

Canadian cities are slowly implementing strategies to improve road safety and reduce serious injuries among vulnerable road users. If you or a member of your family has been injured, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of talented personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help.


Image credit: Roozbeh Rokni/Flickr

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