Vision Zero Plan gets $13M boost in wake of 'troubling' deaths - but some say action needed now

Toronto Mayor John Tory today announced a $13 million dollar boost for the Vision Zero Plan as the city grapples with an number of traffic related deaths.

Surplus will bring total Vision Zero investment to $100M over a 5-year period, Tory says

An additional $13M for Vision Zero will be used partly to enhance bike lanes along the city's ten main cycling corridors. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The city's Vision Zero plan is expected to get a $13-million boost as the city grapples with a number of recent traffic-related deaths.

Friday's announcement by Mayor John Tory comes in the wake of a deadly week on Toronto's streets.

"I've been horrified by the continued rise in deaths of pedestrians and cyclists being hit by cars and trucks," he said during the announcement at city hall.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he will be moving to allocate an additional $13M to this year’s Vision Zero plan. (CBC)

On Monday, a 50-year-old woman was walking near Briar Hill Avenue and Dufferin Street when she was struck by a driver behind the wheel of a pickup truck. The following day, a 58-year-old woman was collided with a flatbed truck while cycling near the University of Toronto.

"I am frustrated by the fact that even as we enact these changes there continues to be an unacceptable toll taken on our roads," Tory continued. 

"The deaths of pedestrians and cyclists on our roads continue to be an issue which has been particularly troubling and I'll admit, very frustrating to me during my time as mayor."

The Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, according to the city's website, is a comprehensive five year (2017-2021) action plan focused on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto's streets.  With more than 50 safety measures across six emphasis areas, the plan prioritizes the safety of the most vulnerable road users, through a range of initiatives.

Former chief planner calls for 'state of emergency'

But some have decried the plan as a failure. The city's former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, for example, has said Toronto needs to declare a state of emergency, and begin by immediately lowering speed limits. 

Wednesday marked two years since the city announced its Vision Zero plan to eliminate road deaths. So far, the program hasn't made a significant difference. Toronto police statistics show 40 pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year, while 44 died the year before that. 

So far this year, 21 cyclists and pedestrians have been killed on Toronto's streets.

The mayor said next week's executive committee meeting will consider a report on the 2017 budget results, which shows a significant surplus for the city.

"I will be moving to allocate an additional $13 million from that surplus to this year's Vision Zero work," he said, adding that the total investment for Vision Zero will be $100 million over a five-year period.

The proposal isn't a done deal, however. If it passes the executive committee vote, it will then proceed to city council.

A 58-year-old woman died after her bicycle collided with a flatbed truck in the Annex on Tuesday. A total of 21 cyclists and pedestrians have died so far this year on Toronto's streets. (TPS Traffic Operations/Twitter)

Tory said the additional funds will be used to enact specific road safety measures and street design interventions.

These include speeding up road design and re-design initiatives; doubling the number of leading intervals, which give pedestrians a head start at traffic lights; and clearing a backlog of speed bump installations.

The funds will also be used to enhance bike lanes along the city's ten main cycling corridors, including painting green lanes through intersections and installing zebra markings at up to 200 additional intersections this year.