Pedestrian deaths on the rise in Toronto

We hear it all the time. A group of cyclists cycling in Richmond are hit by a vehicle at 12:30 in the afternoon last Saturday.  One person dies, several are injured. The day before an elderly man, a much-loved grandfather is killed crossing 56th Street in Tsawwassen at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, and police are looking for witnesses to this tragic car crash.

Perhaps we are used to thinking about cars as having advantages in the safety department, and think of pedestrian and cyclist safety as somewhere else, but not on the same road. What ever the reason we as a society and a culture have tragically displaced and defaulted the use of our transportation networks to the automobile, and have tolerated the loss of pedestrians and cyclists in numbers so vast that even the Medical Health Officer of British Columbia, Dr. Perry Kendall has written a report “Where the Rubber Meets The Road” outlining the carnage and critical injuries that are resulting in British Columbia by car dominance. Why did Dr. Kendall write this report? Because being killed or maimed by vehicular traffic and vehicles  is a major cause of death and disability in this province.

There are even pedestrian “shaming” campaigns in some jurisdictions, where authorities are asking pedestrians to wear reflective clothing. As shown in Scandinavia where reflectivity is part of the wardrobe and universally mandated and accepted, this DOES reduce deaths and injury, but it is only one small piece of a solution that also includes lower road speeds, education and change in driver behaviour, and road design that means drivers drive slower for the road, not the road speed the driver feels is appropriate for the design.

The City of Toronto has an unprecedented  18 pedestrian crashes a day (three times more than average) and 35 pedestrian deaths so far this year. The Premier of Ontario has just announced that legislation that would give municipalities the power to introduce photo radar technology in school and community safety zones, which takes pictures of the licence plates of speeding cars. Other areas like daycares, parks, seniors’ homes, hospitals and even entire neighbourhoods could also be monitored for speed.

The use of photo radar and fining is controversial in Ottawa where it was felt to be a money grab by the Mayor. However the Premier has said that revenue from enforcement using photo radar would go into road safety programs associated with the municipalities, not general city revenue. And it is a good first step if passed by the Ontario legislature and reintroducing photo radar enforcement to slow cars on an area wide basis is enforced by municipalities. Slower speeds reduce fatalities and injuries. Now we just need to talk about changing road design and driver behaviour to recognize that all users of roads are not vehicular.