Two months after a woman was killed after being hit by a cement truck, Midtown residents are calling for safer street design, increased traffic enforcement and a citywide ban on heavy trucks that don’t meet proposed safety standards.
At a community meeting Monday night, residents expressed concerns about the “inhuman” levels of construction in the Yonge and Eglinton area and the ever-increasing influx of pedestrians the area will see — and, with that, the inevitability of further injury without traffic enforcement.
“Day after day you look outside our building and you see illegally parked vehicles without tickets,” one resident said, pointing to the dangers this creates for pedestrians, especially with mobility challenges.
Some residents made impassioned pleas for traffic lights at the Erskine and Yonge intersection where Evangeline Lauroza, 54, was killed.
“Someone is going to lose their life. I hope it’s not a child,” said Susan Horton, adding she raised this possibility with Councillor Jaye Robinson’s office two years ago.
“It’s a dereliction of duty not to have put a crossing guard at the corner. We need traffic lights there immediately. We need emergency action on that corner,” she said. “Please, tell me when is that going to happen?”
Robinson’s office said they are looking into it.
“That person is dead now. She can’t get her life back,” Horton said after the meeting. “They plan and plan and they spend a lot of money on consulting companies but they aren’t really listening to people.”
At the Monday night meeting, safer streets advocate groups specifically called for regulations that would require heavy trucks to have specific safety mechanisms, including side guards to prevent people from being sucked under rear wheels, as well as cameras and sensor systems and high visibility cabs that eliminate blind spots.
“Let’s make sure these vehicles are safe for an urban environment,” said safer streets advocate and area resident John Taranu at the meeting of more than 250 residents organized by Councillor Josh Matlow (Toronto-St. Paul’s), Councillor Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) and the office of Councillor Robinson (Don Valley West).
A letter submitted at the meeting by the advocates cites the so-called “lorry ban” in London, England, which was put into effect in 2015 after several cyclist deaths and required heavy goods vehicles to be fitted with side guards and specific mirrors. Starting next year, after a five-year lead-up period, the ban will be expanded to include trucks that fail to meet the lowest safety rating based on how well a driver can see their surroundings.
Over the past several years, there have been a disproportionate number of pedestrian deaths involving heavy trucks. Nine of the 34 pedestrians killed on Toronto roads in 2019 died in collisions involving heavy trucks, according to the Star’s tally of traffic deaths. Earlier this month, a 24-year-old man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a cement truck turning from Lawrence Ave. W. onto Keele St.
After Lauroza’s death, councillors called for better training for truck drivers when it comes to navigating busy, narrow, construction-choked streets — Colle reiterated that call Monday night.
“We can’t pretend this isn’t happening … We have never had so many construction trucks in the city before,” said Colle. “If you think it’s bad right now in terms of the construction … it’s just beginning.”
After a motion by Robinson in September, city staff are now examining ways to target heavy trucks and active construction zones in the Vision Zero road safety plan.
This month, Mayor John Tory announced a pilot project where, for one year, a construction co-ordinator will work to reduce congestion and traffic hazards in the Yonge-Eglinton area. The co-ordinator will be on the ground, identifying and dealing with issues as they arise, Roger Browne, director of traffic management with transportation services for the city, told the meeting.
Taranu said in an interview that while the construction-focused pilot is welcomed, long-term measures including enforcement and aggressive redesign of dangerous streets need to be implemented across Toronto. Handing out fluorescent armbands to seniors, he said, referencing a criticized part of a pedestrian safety event over the weekend, won’t work.
Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox
Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines email newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.
He said banning trucks that don’t meet a specific safety standard from the city, or from roads other than highways, would fit in well with other recent city initiatives, including choosing to buy smaller garbage and fire trucks.
“This is a citywide epidemic and the solutions here are applicable citywide,” he said. “People are exasperated by the lack of action.”