I hate to be a cynic, but as Toronto City Council gets set to debate a road safety plan intended to make our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and other road users this week, I’m worried.
I’m worried that I’ll see a carbon copy of past council debates focused around grand plans — too much talk and not enough action.
I’m worried that once the votes are counted and the politicians go home, not enough will change.
And I have reason to worry. Last year, councillors endorsed ambitious multi-year plans to reduce poverty and improve affordable housing but then whiffed on the implementation, opting to hold back parts of the strategies because they didn’t want to pay for them.
That can’t happen again.
The number of injuries and fatalities on Toronto’s streets point to a city in crisis. It’s time for immediate action. In addition to endorsing – and strengthening – the long-term safety plan, Mayor John Tory and council should also consider actions that can happen quickly, and that aren’t subject to the budget process.
Start with these.
For pedestrians and cyclists, as vehicle speeds go up, so too does the likelihood of death.
Coun. Jaye Robinson deserves credit for recognizing this and bringing forward motions last month to lower limits on several downtown streets. Her colleagues should follow her lead and bring forward further amendments to lower speed limits on streets across the city.
Improve construction zones
It’s early days, but the start of Toronto’s summer road construction season seemed to coincide with a spike in collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists.
I’m not surprised. Construction sites on city streets are arranged with little regard for people who aren’t driving cars, often forcing other users to make detours or merge with traffic.
Fixing this should be easy. Round up all the signage bearing messages like “sidewalk closed” and “cyclists merge with traffic” and burn the lot of it. Instead, implement guidelines directing contractors to first serve cyclists and pedestrians during road closures.
In June, at the request of Mayor John Tory, Toronto police launched a pilot project where uniformed officers were stationed at intersections throughout Toronto to keep traffic moving.
It’s unclear what they accomplished, beyond yelling at pedestrians who entered crosswalks during the countdown phase.
These officers would be way better used at key danger zones identified by cyclists and pedestrians, ticketing drivers who put vulnerable road users at risk.
None of these measures are likely to be magic fixes. Lasting change will come from infrastructure designed for pedestrians and cyclists. But changes like these would at least serve as an indication that local politicians understand the urgency of the issue.
Long-term plans are good and necessary, but the people injured and dying on Toronto’s deadly streets can’t wait.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/torys-toronto-matt-elliott/2016/07/11/immediate-action-needed-on-toronto-deadly-streets.html on 2016-07-11T00:00:00.000Z