Toronto city council approves first ever road safety plan

Toronto city council approved a road safety plan on Thursday with the goal of reducing the number of road fatalities to zero.

'What we've got here is many, many preventable deaths,' Mayor John Tory says

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, says he is encouraged by council's endorsement of the road safety plan. (CBC)

Toronto city council approved a road safety plan on Thursday that sets an ambitious goal of reducing the number of road fatalities to zero.

Mayor John Tory applauded the five-year plan, saying it is the first of its kind in the city.

"What we've got here is many, many preventable deaths," Tory said.

The plan would reduce the speed limits on several downtown streets. Other proposals include better enforcement of the speed limit in school and construction zones — and doubling the fines for speeding and other infractions in school zones.

Council, as part of the plan, intends to ask the Ontario government to ban pedestrians from using handheld wireless devices while crossing the street.

Councillors agreed to consider the cost of fast-tracking the plan so that it's accomplished in two years instead of five.
Toronto city council has approved its first ever road safety plan with a goal of reducing road fatalities to zero. (CBC)

A staff report prepared for the city said Toronto had 65 traffic-related fatalities in 2015, which was a 10-year high.

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, said he is encouraged by council's unanimous endorsement of the plan.

He called it an "incremental, strategic" plan, but noted the its effect may not be seen for several years.

"Sadly, we are still going to see more pedestrian and cyclist deaths," he said. "There is still a lot more to do."

The big issue is speed, he said.

"It's something that we got to get under control in the city."

Observers have wondered aloud whether the road safety plan will do enough to reduce the rate of injuries and deaths. (Jenna Reid/CBC)

Coun. Mike Layton, who represents TrinitySpadina, said he is in favour of fast-tracking the plan.

"There's a growing number of fatalities on our roadways. We need to do everything we can to stop them," he said. "We do need to set our sights on zero deaths."

Layton voted against the motion to ask the province to ban pedestrians from using their cellphones while walking across city streets.

"That's a bit of a stretch," he said. "But you need to keep your head up when you're on the roadway."