Toronto plan to improve road safety 'very timid,' advocacy group says

An advocacy group that works to improve walking conditions in Toronto is calling on Mayor John Tory to be bolder in his master plan to improve road safety.

Walk Toronto representative calls for speed reductions on all roads

Maureen Coyle, member of the steering committee of Walk Toronto, said the city's plan to improve road safety is 'very timid.' She said across the board speed reductions on all roads are required. (CBC)

An advocacy group that works to improve walking conditions in Toronto is calling on Mayor John Tory to be bolder in his master plan to improve road safety.

"From what I have read of the strategic plan, at this point, it's very timid," said Maureen Coyle, member of the steering committee of Walk Toronto.

"It doesn't really talk about significant across-the-board speed reductions. It does not talk about the kinds of infrastructure change that would actually keep people safe as they use the streets and sidewalks."

Under the master plan, Tory plans to spend $68 million over the next five years to improve road safety. 

The plan involves lowering the speed limit on sections of more than 50 roads, creating advanced green lights for pedestrians at certain intersections, painting more zebra-stripes to increase visibility of crossing areas, and banning right-turns on red lights at specific times at certain corners.

Coyle said she thinks Toronto lacks the political will and structure to make "deep cultural" changes to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

"I'd like to see blanket reduction of speed across the city on all roads, arterial and side roads. Speed has a definite impact on how well a body is able to survive a collision with a car," she said.

Coyle said the city also needs to think differently about how people use streets. Physical changes, rather than legislation, would make people safer, she said.

Toronto had 65 road-related fatalities last year, a number that includes 39 pedestrians and four cyclists.

"We cannot even put a dollar figure to the human cost of that. It's reckless for us not to be spending the kind of money we need to make the changes we have to have," she said.

She said Toronto is lagging far behind Vancouver, Edmonton, New York City and San Francisco in implementing changes that would reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Coun. Jaye Robinson, chair of the city's public works and infrastructure committee, said the plan is designed to protect the most vulnerable people on Toronto roads and sidewalks. That includes seniors, children and cyclists.

"It's a big step forward for the city," she said.

"Well, I would say the stats are actually quite alarming, and that's why it's so important that we roll out this road safety plan for our city, which we've never had before. So this is a consolidated approach, a streamlined approach to road safety in our city, and unfortunately, up to this point, we've never had that umbrella framework."

The city's public works and infrastructure committee will discuss the plan on Monday.

Among other measures, the plan would create 25 new safety "corridors" in areas known to be dangerous. The ultimate goal is zero pedestrian deaths.

"We are going to slow things down across the city." Robinson said. "Every life counts in our city."