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.
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