In a speech to council, Mayor John Tory stood by the assessment he made after winning re-election last year: that the city’s original Vision Zero plan “wasn’t working.”
“I’d like to think that some of the investment that we’ve made over the last couple of years is beginning to bear fruit, but it was obvious we needed to more, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” he said.
“Our objective remains the same, which is zero (traffic deaths).”
Council was reminded of the high stakes of its decision when Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 17, Don Valley North) rose to announce that while she and her colleagues were discussing the road safety plan, a female pedestrian was struck and killed in a section of her ward.
Her voice catching, Carroll moved a motion asking staff to prioritize reducing speeds on a section of Don Mills Rd. near the deadly collision.
She warned her fellow councillors that when “you hesitate, you lose lives.”
“I’m asking for an acknowledgment that we didn’t move quickly enough,” she said. “In memoriam, I’m asking that this one go first.”
Her motion passed.
While there was broad support on council for the new plan, Jess Spieker, a spokesperson for Friends and Families for Safe Streets, predicted it won’t meet the goal of preventing all traffic deaths. That’s because most of its planned speed reductions on major arterial roads would change posted limits from 60 km/h to 50 km/h.
The staff report to council outlining the new road-safety plan cited an international study that indicates pedestrians still have an 85 per cent chance of being killed in a collision with a vehicle travelling 50 km/h.
“That you can call (the plan) Vision Zero when there’s an 85 per cent risk of death when you’re struck by a driver at that speed, that doesn’t seem compatible,” Spieker said.
Vision Zero 2.0 will cost $123 million gross to implement between 2020 and 2024, according to the staff report.
Council approved its first comprehensive road-safety plan in July 2016. The following year 45 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in Toronto, and in 2018 the number jumped to 47, according to the Star’s count, which differs from the official police tally because it includes deaths on provincial highways and private property within the city.
Including the person killed Tuesday, 18 pedestrians have died so far this year, according to the Star’s tracking.
Here are some of the changes that are coming to Toronto’s streets under Vision Zero 2.0:
Speed limit reductions
Pedestrians and cyclists have a 95 per cent chance of being killed if hit by a driver going 60 km/h, according to the study cited by city staff. That drops to 30 per cent if the vehicle is going 40 km/h.
As part of what staff described as a “holistic speed-management strategy,” the new plan will reduce the speed limit to 50 km/h on about 250 km of the 375 km worth of major arterial roads in Toronto that currently have posted limits of 60 km/h.
The reductions are expected to start in 2020 and take two years to implement, with priority being given to areas with high collision rates.
According to city staff, to be effective lower speed limits should be accompanied by physical changes to streets that encourage drivers to slow down. Redesigns proposed under the plan include narrowing traffic lanes, bumping out curbs at intersections and installing separated bike lanes.
The city usually plans the most intensive physical changes to coincide with scheduled road reconstruction or resurfacing, but arterial and collector roads typically require reconstructions only once every 50 years.
Under the new plan, staff will take a more proactive approach to implementing physical safety changes both in conjunction with road work or “on a stand-alone basis.” The city will also develop a program to implement interim road-safety modifications by using paint, bollards or other temporary features if permanent fixes aren’t immediately feasible.
More than half of pedestrian deaths occur when someone is attempting to cross a street midblock in a section of road without any traffic signals, according to city staff.
The report that went to council asserted that road design can be a factor in these collisions. In some areas of the city where crossings are far apart, walking 400 metres to the nearest one with a signal can take six minutes for an able-bodied person — meaning pedestrians are likely to dart across lanes of traffic if no crossing is close by.
The new road-safety plan changes the criteria staff use when evaluating whether to install midblock crossings in order to take into account factors like local land use and the presence of TTC stops. According to the report, that will result in traffic signals being installed in places previous policies wouldn’t have allowed.
Council approved a “missing sidewalk installation policy” that delegated authority to city staff to build new sidewalks as part of road reconstruction work or to accommodate a local person with a disability.
However, Councillor Stephen Holyday (Ward 2, Etobicoke Centre) said some residents in his part of town don’t want sidewalks and argued that there should be a process by which elected representatives could oppose a new installation.
He moved a motion that would allow councillors to take a new sidewalk proposal to the city’s infrastructure committee, where they could raise objections. It passed 16 to 10, with the mayor voting in favour.
Automated speed enforcement
In 2017 the provincial government passed legislation enabling cities to use automatic cameras to catch speeding drivers in specially designated safety zones. However, the province has yet to introduce regulations that would put the legislation into effect.
City staff said in the Vision Zero 2.0 report that they have been working with ministries and other municipalities on implementation.
Barbara Mottram, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, said the government is waiting on municipalities to officially select a vendor for the technology.
“Once that vendor has been selected, the ministry will work to finalize the regulations, likely this fall,” she said.
Last year, council designated the frontages of 754 elementary schools as community safety zones, making them eligible for speed cameras.