A survey about whether to adopt specific measures to make streets safer, including banning right turns on red lights, has revealed a divide between suburban and downtown candidates in the municipal election, according to a coalition of street safety advocates.
The survey was sent to 162 candidates, including incumbent councillors.
“Nearly all responses received from incumbents came from the downtown core,” according to the advocacy group Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, in partnership with 8 80 Cities, Friends and Families for Safe Streets, Cycle Toronto and Walk Toronto.
“This trend is worrying, since the majority of serious injuries and death occur in Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.”
In all, 80 election candidates, including Mayor John Tory and his main rival, Jennifer Keesmaat, responded to the survey, which asked whether candidates support a slate of 15 initiatives aimed at making the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
In all, 21 incumbent councillors declined to participate in the survey, including the incumbents in the Etobicoke wards, according to Nancy Smith Lea, director, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation. In the Scarborough wards, only Councillor Paul Ainslie (Scarborough-Guildwood), responded to the survey, Smith Lea said.
Candidates were asked whether they would support a slate of initiatives that included: implementing a citywide default speed limit of 30 km/h on all residential streets and 40 km/h on all arterial and collector roads; streamlining the traffic calming process in Toronto; accelerating the cycling network plan to be built in the next four years; matching New York City’s per-capita funding for Toronto’s road safety plan and outlawing motor vehicle right turns on red.
Nearly all respondents supported implementing traffic calming in all elementary school zones by 2022 and to streamline the process for neighbourhood traffic calming. Outlawing right turns on red was supported by only 64 per cent of respondents and reducing speeds by 78 per cent of respondents.
Tory agreed he would outline right turns on red lights in key areas “where it makes sense.” Keesmaat sidestepped the question by saying that she plans to transform 100 of Toronto’s most dangerous intersections within four years and develop an aggressive plan to fix the rest.
The organizations behind the survey declined to publicly endorse candidates based on their responses.
“We feel it’s important to remain impartial. The public can decide for themselves who is the road safety champion,” said Kasia Briegmann-Samson, whose husband Tom Samson was killed six years ago while cycling.
Advocates pointed out that it is taking too long to fix the problems in the city that have lead to too many cycling and pedestrian deaths.
“We’ve all been in a collision or know someone who has been,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto.
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF