Safer Streets

As injuries, deaths rise on Toronto roads, advocates calling for change this election

The latest numbers from Toronto police show at least 55 people have been killed on Toronto roads so far this year, and 31 — more than half — of those deaths have been pedestrians

55 people have been killed on city streets so far this year, Toronto police data shows

It's been almost four years since Gillian Greenspan was hit while crossing a street near her North York home, but even now, memories of that morning are still clear. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

It's been almost four full years since Gillian Greenspan was hit while crossing a street near her North York home.

But even now, when she walks along Bathurst Street, memories of that morning on Nov.14, 2014 are still clear.

Greenspan was halfway across an intersection near the busy artery when a car turning left from behind sent her tumbling to the ground. The impact meant the now-58-year-old needed an emergency ankle replacement, multiple surgeries and counselling. She still has a lingering fear of turning vehicles.

The experience also left Greenspan with a new frustration over the high number of people injured and killed across the city.

"Why should people die for no reason?" Greenspan said this week, standing with her mobility walker near the intersection where she was hit. "If someone's going to work or shopping or their place of worship — why should they die? For what?"

The latest numbers from Toronto police show at least 55 people have been killed on Toronto roads so far this year, and 31 — more than half — of those deaths have been pedestrians.

Toronto's rising road death and injury toll is prompting questions about the success of the city's Vision Zero initiative to reduce all road-related deaths to zero. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

The rising death and injury toll is prompting questions over the success of the city's Vision Zero initiative to reduce all road-related deaths to zero, which was launched in 2017 following more than 2,100 pedestrians being killed or seriously injured in just over a decade.

With advance polls already open for the fall municipal election, road safety advocates like Greenspan are calling for change from the next city council, particularly after a recent string of deadly and life-changing incidents.

On Monday, 34-year-old artist and father Andre Alexander died after a hit and run.

On Tuesday, police announced a man had died after being trapped under a Queensway streetcar — one of three streetcar-related incidents in a month.

And on Wednesday, an elderly man riding a scooter in the west-end was left with serious injuries after being hit by a truck.

'Devastating' injury, death toll 

Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb called the latest tally "devastating."

While he acknowledged there has been some neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood progress on Vision Zero, he's pushing candidates to commit to lowering speed limits across the city.

It's a move mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat, who is second only to incumbent John Tory in major polls, has pledged to support by lowering the speed limit on all residential streets to 30 km/h if elected.

On Wednesday, she also stressed that redesigning dangerous intersections and roadways is another crucial step — a move she has said could be accomplished through simple changes like planter boxes or posts to slow down cars and give pedestrians shorter distances to walk.

"It's about designing the streets so that preventable deaths are prevented," she said. "We haven't been doing that as a city, and that's why we see these tragedies."

Tory, meanwhile, defended his record and the city's progress toward zero road deaths.

Jennifer Keesmaat, mayoral candidate and former chief city planner, says more needs to be done to boost safety on Toronto's streets. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC News)

"I'm absolutely determined we're going to get there," he said, noting the city has changed speed limits in various areas and has made investments in safety zones, photo radar, and intersection improvements as part of the five year, $100-million Vision Zero project.

Greenspan, who now considers herself a road safety advocate after being hit all those years ago, believes more needs to be done — including widespread speed limit reductions, more education for both drivers and pedestrians, and tweaks to the rules like a Montreal-style ban on right turns on red lights.

Sweeping changes, she hopes, that could prevent more tragedies.

"I'm lucky I'm back on my feet," Greenspan said. "But you can put someone in a wheelchair for life."

This story is part of CBC Toronto's new road safety series, Safer Streets. Whether you drive, bike, or walk, we want to hear your stories about sharing the road. What areas concern you? How do you want to make our streets safer? Send us an email: SaferStreetsToronto@cbc.ca

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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