Tory, Keesmaat support road safety measures, survey shows - but many suburban incumbents don't answer
Nearly 90 mayoral, council candidates responded to #BuildTheVisionTO survey
Leading mayoral candidates John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat are both pledging support for a variety of road safety measures, including the possibility of reduced speed limits, according to new election survey results provided exclusively to CBC Toronto.
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There is also a high level support for building safer streets among candidates for council, though many incumbents outside the city's core never responded to the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation's #BuildTheVisionTO survey — despite running in suburban communities with some of the city's highest pedestrian death rates.
"This is not just a downtown issue," said Nancy Smith Lea of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) on Wednesday.
TCAT, an organization supporting safe and inclusive streets, launched the survey in partnership with advocacy groups 8 80 Cities, Cycle Toronto, Friends and Families for Safe Streets, and Walk Toronto.
It called on candidates to support a variety of recommendations for achieving Vision Zero, an international initiative embraced by Toronto's council as a way to reduce the number of road deaths to zero, including streamlining the city's traffic calming process and reducing speed limits.
Tory, Keesmaat open to reduced speed limits
Tory and Keesmaat were both "positive" when it came to most recommendations, Smith Lea said. "It was really encouraging to see that level of support."
Reduced speed limits were a key area for the advocacy groups involved in the survey, Smith Lea noted, since research has shown people are far more likely to die when hit by cars travelling at speeds higher than 50 km/hr than those going 30 km/hr.
"We've seen that speed is a factor in almost every fatality across the city," she added.
In her survey responses, Keesmaat reaffirmed her commitment to dropping all residential speed limits to 30 km/hr.
"Right now, we have a confusing patchwork of speed limits on our residential roads," she wrote. "We need to send a consistent message that drivers must go more slowly on the streets where our children walk and play."
Tory, while stressing his involvement in the city's pilot for automated speed enforcement in school zones, didn't commit specifically to a city-wide drop in speeds.
Instead, he wrote the city will be "carefully evaluating" areas that would benefit from reduced speed limits, based on staff recommendations.
Nearly 90 respondents
In total, 10 mayoral candidates and 78 council hopefuls responded — with nearly all expressing support for streaming the traffic calming process and building the city's Cycling Network Plan, including a large majority who want to speed up its completion from eight years from now to four.
Keesmaat is among those backing an accelerated plan, promising to have the network up and running by 2022. Tory, in contrast, said the city would accelerate it where appropriate.
"We'd certainly like to see a firmer commitment from him on that," said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto.
Nearly all the incumbent councillors and new faces who took the survey agreed to support most, if not all, the coalition's recommendations.
Meanwhile more more than a dozen incumbent councillors from the city's suburbs chose not to respond to the survey at all.
"That is worrying, especially because this is where the bulk of vulnerable road-user fatalities are happening," Kolb said.
Toronto police data shows there have been at least 30 collisions leading to pedestrian deaths on the city's roads so far this year, with 27 of them happening outside the downtown core.
In 2017, the numbers were similar, as CBC Toronto's municipal affairs analyst Matt Elliott noted last month, with 27 of 36 total deadly collisions following the same trend.
Coupled with that, there is a high percentage of streets without sidewalks in areas like Scarborough, Etobicoke-York and North York, leaving pedestrians with limited options.
Suburban councillors largely ignored survey
But those are some of the areas where councillors seeking re-election ignored the call for a commitment, including Etobicoke's Vincent Crisanti, Michael Ford, John Campbell, Stephen Holyday, Mark Grimes, and Giorgio Mammoliti.
In many cases, that mirrors incumbents' voting patterns on council. Holyday has been an outspoken critic of bike lanes, for instance, while Mammoliti has repeatedly described certain road safety efforts as a "war" on cars.
In Scarborough, incumbents Michelle Holland-Berardinetti, Gary Crawford, Michael Thompson, Jim Karygiannis and Neethan Shan also didn't respond.
Lea Smith noted only one member of the city's Public Works and Infrastructure committee who's seeking re-election came on board — Anthony Perruzza — while Mammoliti, Holyday, and Christin Carmichael Greb did not.
That came as a surprise to Lea Smith, since the committee handles the city's Vision Zero efforts. Even more surprising? Chair Jaye Robinson, who has often been the face of the road safety campaign, was also among those who never replied.
Her rival in the Ward 15 race, Jon Burnside, didn't either, along with incumbent candidates Denzil Minnan-Wong, Josh Matlow, Maria Augimeri, James Pasternak, Frank Di Giorgio, Lucy Troisi and Norm Kelly.
Smith Lea expressed concern that some incumbents view road safety efforts as a political wedge issue.
"There's nothing political about making our roads safer," she said.
Less support for speed reduction, ban on right turns at red lights
Within the dozens of completed surveys, there were several areas of slightly lower support, with 78 per cent of council candidates backing a drop in speed limits.
Meanwhile outlawing right turns on red lights — a ban in place in Montreal and various European cities — only landed 64 per cent support among the council hopefuls, despite research showing right turns account for more than one in 10 pedestrian injuries or deaths in Toronto.
Kolb said that, anecdotally, it's something community members are talking about and pushing for, even if it's not on candidates' radar.
"Residents are probably further ahead than their politicians are," he added. "It's not [an issue] that's been in the political discourse to a great extent."
Both Keesmaat and Tory, however, are open to the idea.
The #BuildTheVisionTO recommendations
- Implement a city-wide default speed limit of 30 km/h on all residential streets and 40 km/h on all arterial and collector roads.
- Streamline the traffic calming process in Toronto.
- Implement traffic calming in all elementary school zones by 2022.
- Build sidewalks on every street being reconstructed.
- Ensure sidewalks have a minimum 2.1 metre pedestrian clearway on all arterial and collector roads.
- Build protected bike lanes on main streets, including major corridors listed in the Cycling Network Plan.
- Build safe, connected bike routes in every ward.
- Accelerate the Cycling Network Plan to be built in the next four years.
- Increase the use of automated traffic enforcement safety cameras.
- Prioritize the safety of vulnerable road users by outlawing motor vehicle right turns on red.
- Implement controlled crossings at all bus and streetcar stops.
- Create an implementation strategy for Toronto's Complete Streets Guidelines.
- Support the Transform Yonge option for Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues, which would reduce six vehicular lanes to four, install bike lanes, and increase sidewalk widths.
- Match New York City's per-capita funding for Toronto's Road Safety Plan.
- Support and fund a monthly Open Streets Toronto program from May to September in 2019 and beyond.