Metro Morning

Toronto pedestrian, urban planner call for urgent safety fixes for city's dangerous roads

For one Toronto woman, a cyclist’s death and a spate of collisions involving pedestrians, is a terrifying reminder of her own brush with death on the city's roads.

Victim, urban planner call on city to do more to protect vulnerable road users

Carolyn Skinner is still recovering after being struck by an SUV while crossing a street in Thornhill in 2014. (CBC)

For Carolyn Skinner, a cyclist's death and a spate of collisions involving pedestrians, is a terrifying reminder of her own brush with death on the city's roads.

Skinner, a Torontonian who walks most places and takes transit, was hit by an SUV while crossing at a lit intersection at Yonge and John Streets in Thornhill in 2014.

Similar collisions are common in the city. In June, which was also bike month in Toronto, more than 50 cyclists were struck by vehicles. Meanwhile, more than 70 pedestrians have been struck since May 30, according to data collected by one urban planner tracking the issue.

It's a moment I think I'll remember forever. And I think about it everyday when I'm crossing the street.- Carolyn Skinner

Today, Skinner is still recovering mentally and physically from the collision, which was caused by an inattentive motorist who slammed into her while trying to turn right on a red light.

Skinner told CBC Radio's Metro Morning she can still remember the moment before impact.

"You think your life's going to end," she said. 

"It's a moment I think I'll remember forever. And I think about it everyday when I'm crossing the street."

Skinner's said her head hit the hood of the car before she bounced off and onto the roadway. Her belongings were scattered across the ground. The driver leapt out of his vehicle and frantically told her that he didn't see her.

The collision fractured one of Skinner's ribs and tore a ligament in her knee. Today, she's receiving therapy for back issues as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, both of which she said were caused by the crash.

How to protect pedestrians?

Skinner said she believes three things need to happen to protect pedestrians in the city.

Coun. Paula Fletcher said Toronto doesn't have a strong 'share the road' culture. (Matt Galloway/CBC)
First, pedestrians need to do everything in their power to protect themselves (which she had been doing at the time she was hit). However, she said, "I don't think blaming pedestrians — pedestrians in particular — is viable" in most cases.

Second, motorists need to slow down in the congested city. "I think everyone's in too much of a rush," she said, noting the driver was focused on saving a few seconds of waiting at the light and was more concerned with looking for other cars.

And finally, politicians need to find a way to make sure streets with transit hubs or busy pedestrian crossings offer more protection to pedestrians.

On Wednesday, Coun. Paula Fletcher noted that far more people are cycling in Toronto now and infrastructure — including the extension of the bike share program – is increasing to support that. Less than one month ago, Toronto councillors voted to double the size of the city's cycling network.

However, she warned, "I do think that the 'share the road' philosophy just isn't strong enough yet in Toronto. People aren't watching for cyclists and watching for pedestrians and the notion that we should share the road should be a priority."

Public safety warnings won't cut it, planner says

Kyle Miller, a cyclist and urban planner, said the city needs to take urgent action to prevent its most vulnerable road users.

Miller has been tracking the number of cyclists and pedestrians hit by cars since May 30 using data gleaned from the Toronto police operations Twitter account. His results: Since May 30 there have been 64 cyclists and 71 pedestrians struck by drivers — or, roughly three collisions per day.

During that time, five pedestrians and one cyclist have died.

"I don't think the city has taken seriously the task of providing safe infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians," Miller said.

The planner, who said he's also somewhat worried about his own safety, said the only official response to the issue he's seen is a public safety announcement from the mayor, and in the days following that announcement there were actually more collisions.

"Does John Tory really think that a public service announcement will have an effect?"

Miller said he believes changing roadways will be the only way to ensure safety. 

With files from Metro Morning

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