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Toronto’s road safety plan may get more money

A proposal to inject an extra $12.2M into saving lives of pedestrians and cyclists will go to council this week.
July 12, 2016
By Ben Spurr

The city’s new road safety plan could get a funding boost, after coming under intense criticism from pedestrian and cycling advocates who said it didn’t go far enough to tackle the rash of deadly collisions on Toronto’s streets.

The plan, which will go to a vote at this week’s city council meeting, was updated in a report released by transportation staff Tuesday evening.

Subject to council’s approval, staff recommend increasing the five-year strategy’s budget by $12.2 million in capital funds, to add new projects and accelerate initiatives already planned.

The plan’s original budget was $68.1 million, of which about $40 million was new funding.

Councillor Jaye Robinson, who in her role as public works chair has led the road safety initiative, said she would back the funding injection because it gives the plan “a bit more teeth.”

“Sure, I would love more money, but clearly this, I think, is a substantial amount to get things rolling,” said Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West).

A spokeswoman for Mayor John Tory said he would also support the staff recommendations.

“The number of pedestrians and cyclists hit by vehicles in our city this year is both alarming and unacceptable. We have to do more to prevent these tragedies and keep each other safe,” Keerthana Kamalavasan wrote in an email.

But Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, said that while there was some “good news” in the updated plan, the funding increase is “peanuts” compared with the scale of the problem.

“We need to do much more if we’re going to truly ... eliminate road fatalities and serious injuries in Toronto,” he said.

As the Star reported last week, in a 24-hour period on July 4, 18 traffic collisions involving 20 pedestrians and cyclists were reported to police. One pedestrian was killed. The next day, a cyclist died in a crash.

There have been 22 pedestrian fatalities so far this year, which puts Toronto on course to meet or exceed its record high.

The original safety plan identified 40 safety “countermeasures” to protect vulnerable road users that would be deployed at areas of the city that have a statistically high number of crashes.

They included physical alterations of intersections, better pavement markings, signalized cyclist crossings, and “pedestrian safety corridors” that would have lower speed limits and pedestrian-priority traffic signals.

The updated report recommends adding four new countermeasures, including creating “senior safety zones” with lower speed limits, increased enforcement and improved pavement markings.

The other new measures are better signage for motorcyclists at high-crash locations, a pilot project involving in-road pedestrian warning signs, and a new road safety committee to oversee the rollout of the plan.

The city would also speed up or enhance implementation of six other countermeasures. That would take hiring 10 staff, four of them in permanent positions.

Instead of reducing corner turning radii at a rate of two intersections per year, staff are now eying five per year. They would also identify and install 10 new mid-block crossings annually, instead of five, and lower speed limits on 14 pedestrian safety corridors this year.

Tory and Robinson launched the new road safety plan last month. At the time, the mayor defended its goal of reducing serious and fatal collisions by 20 per cent over 10 years.

But after pedestrian and cycling advocates pushed back, Tory changed course and supported a motion that explicitly set a “vision zero” target of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries.