Photo Credit: Yvonne Verlinden
As the death toll rises on Toronto’s roads, so too is pressure from all sides to act urgently to improve the safety of our streets so that everyone reaches their destination alive.
On a provincial level, the MPP for Parkdale-High Park, Cheri DiNovo, announced a new private member’s bill at the end of September which, if passed, would be the most comprehensive vulnerable road user law in North America.
More locally, schools are stepping onto the stage as safety advocates. Recently, the City-School Boards Advisory Committee unanimously supported a request to the City to expedite its Vision Zero Road Safety Plan for all 780 public schools in Toronto. Council voted in October to have staff report back on options to accelerate the plan city-wide. Earlier this week Parachute held its 2nd annual Vision Zero Summit and Councillor Paula Fletcher hosted a Vision Zero Road Safety Town Hall.
Toronto also hosted the Ontario School Zone Safety Conference in October, and Brandon Quigley, a former TCAT Researcher now with the Region of Peel, presented on the Guide to Safer Streets Near Schools and approaches to making safety improvements in school zones. He questioned what defines a school zone – is it simply the street where the school is located, or do we need to think more broadly about safety along all routes within the entire catchment area?
Pressure for increased street safety is also mounting from the health sector, and October saw the launch of a new organization, Doctors for Safe Cycling. This group of almost 100 medical professionals recognizes the enormous health benefits of regular physical activity and the potential of everyday travel by bicycle for obtaining these benefits. They are also keenly aware of the safety barriers that exist for people considering cycling in our city and that physically separated bike lanes can reduce injuries by 90%. Based on this evidence, they advocate for increased bike infrastructure in Toronto. They have written an open letter to the Mayor, urging the Bloor bike lane to be made permanent.
For too many, though, these actions are coming too late. Every month, Friends and Families for Safe Streets gathers for a vigil to remember the victims of traffic violence so far this year. Names are read, lights lit and a moment of silence held to mark these deaths which could have been avoided. The next vigil will be on Tuesday Oct 24th at 6pm, in the Peace Garden at Nathan Philips Square, and all are invited to join.