In Toronto, in 2016 so far, there have been
pedestrian or cyclist deaths.0
Traffic in Toronto is dangerous for everyone.
It doesn't have to be this way.
What's going on?
Traffic fatalities are at their highest level in five years.
In 2015, 64 people were killed on Toronto roads, 42 of which were cyclists or pedestrians. In 2014, 51 people were killed.1 In 2013, there were more traffic fatalities in Toronto (63) than there were homicides (57).2
It's been getting worse for years.
How are people killed?
Pedestrians account for 52% of all fatalities and 11% of all injuries from collisions with motor vehicles in Toronto.3
Last year, Toronto Public Health published a report that examined pedestrian and cycling safety. They found that in 67% of cases, pedestrians had the right of way when they were hit by a vehicle.4
This means that "most pedestrians are hit while they are obeying the law, and paying attention to their surroundings - but a vehicle comes at them in a way they can’t possibly see, predict or avoid".5
A review of pedestrian deaths in Ontario in 2010 found that seniors are especially vulnerable: even though those over the age of 65 constitute just 13% of the population of Ontario, they accounted for 35% of pedestrian deaths.6
Where does this happen?
Most collisions in Toronto that occur on roadways and involve pedestrians and cyclists occur on major and minor arterial roads. About 84% of pedestrian injuries and fatalities and 87% of cyclist injuries and fatalities occur on these roads. Across all roads, 69% were struck in an intersection, and about 22% at a midblock location.4
Traffic kills people all over the city. Luke Simcoe made this great map:
What can be done about it?
If pedestrians and cyclists are typically not at fault, what can we do?
The answer lies in how we've designed our roads. In order to save lives, roads need to accommodate all of its users, including pedestrians and cyclists. There are a variety of policy suggestions which you can find in the quoted reports but these are the two big ideas:
1. Calm traffic
The faster the speed at which a collision occurs, the more energy it delivers on impact. Getting hit by a car travelling at 50km/h is twice as likely to kill you than one travelling at 40km/h. You're five times likelier to survive an impact at 30km/h.
In 2012, the Chief Coroner of Ontario issued a report that called for municipalities to lower speed limits to 30 km/hr on residential streets and adopt speed limits of 40 km/hr on other streets.6 Toronto Public Health made the same recommendation in 20123 and again in 2015.4
But just changing the law is not good enough: enforcing the law is tough so long as our roads are designed for greater speeds. We need to narrow roads, curb bulges, add traffic islands, medians, and speed bumps, and change landscaping, signage, and pavement markings.3
2. Give pedestrians and cyclists their own space on the road.
Even the Toronto Sun can agree: it's time for more bike lanes.
In Toronto, approximately two-thirds of cyclist collisions happened on roads with no cycling infrastructure at all. Ideally these lanes should be physically protected from the road, but even a painted lane can have a big impact.4
We know these work, because other cities have tried them: "in New York City, the installation of cycle tracks decreased injuries to cyclists and pedestrians by 57% and 29%, respectively. Studies in London found that new cycle tracks decreased the rate of bicycling crashes and increased the number of cyclists on the roadway by 58% over 3.5 years".3
Pedestrians need clearly marked space, as well. As noted above, the majority of collisions happen at crossings. We need more crossing facilities: ranging from lights and scrambles to painted zebra lines and curb extensions.3 I can tell you from personal experience that all too many drivers and cyclists alike don't know how to safely interact at intersections. By changing the nature of intersections we can save lives.
What can I do about this?
A lot of these changes are opposed by city councillors who, I suspect, simply don't think it's necessarily in their constituents' best interest.
I think the status quo hurts people no matter where they live in the city. Do you know how dangerous it feels to bike north of Eglinton?
The best thing you can do is contact your city councillor and ask them to make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Ask them to support bike lanes. Ask them to support calming traffic. Ask them to support a Vision Zero for Toronto. Ask Mayor Tory to commit funds to prevent deaths on our roads.
This can be intimidating, but don't worry! It's really easy. This guide might help.
You may also be interested in contributing to Cycle Toronto, a local cycling advocacy group.
Who are you and why do you care?
Hi, I'm Phill. I run a startup. I've lived in Toronto for most of my life. I've lived in midtown, North York, and downtown. Growing up, my family did not have the money for a car, so I got around in other ways. I started commuting with a bike in highschool. I've biked every winter for the past six years. I've biked from Etobicoke to Scarborough.
There's a pilot project for bike lanes that is going to be debated in City Council. On Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, as I was getting ready for work, I saw the councillor for Etobicoke Centre reference that project by tweeting:
I will be driving in along Bloor this morning to see what the bike lanes would do to the morning rush hour.— John F Campbell (@Campbell4Ward4) April 26, 2016
38 mts to City Hall along Bloor. Shaw - University, did not pass ONE cyclist. Drove today because I have a 2 pm at Etobicoke Civic Ctr.— John F Campbell (@Campbell4Ward4) April 26, 2016
This made me feel incensed. I felt it was unkind: as I read the tweet, the rain was pounding against my window. Riding in the rain is less safe. The roads are slippery, visibility poor, everyone is on edge. I typically avoid biking in the rain, but I'd do it more often with a bike lane.
As it turns out, the night before, this had happened:
Toronto police say 5 pedestrians, 1 cyclist have been struck since 8:30 p.m. tonight. Police urging motorists, pedestrians to use caution.— CP24 (@CP24) April 26, 2016
An hour before Mr. Campbell tweeted, a cyclist was hit by a car and sent to the hospital. Later that same day, a pedestrian was killed and four others injured.
The following day, April 27th, a cyclist was struck on Jarvis St and was taken to the hospital with life threatening injuries. Did you know we used to have a bike lane on Jarvis, but it got removed back in 2012?
In this site, I focussed on fatalities but that actually hides the sheer number of collisions and injuries that happen on a daily basis.
I want to live in a better Toronto.
I think we owe it to everyone who lives in this city to make our roads safer, and more appealing, for everyone.
– Originally published April 30, 2016. Site last updated: Dec 7th, 2016.
0. This figure is almost certainly an underestimate. It's actually rather hard to get reliable data. These stats are compiled by the police and released at the end of the year - but it's hard to get the actual report. I double checked Luke Simcoe's "Which roads are deadliest? Metro maps cyclist and pedestrian deaths", without which I could not have put this page together.↩
1. "Toronto traffic fatalities at highest level in 5 years." CBC News. December 31, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2016. ↩
2. "Toronto's killing streets as deadly as ever: Hume, Christopher Hume, The Toronto Star. March 8, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2016 ↩
3. "Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto", Toronto Public Health. April 2012. Accessed April 30, 2016. ↩ ↩2 ↩3 ↩4 ↩5
4. "Pedestrian and Cycling Safety in Toronto", Toronto Public Health. June 2015. Accessed April 30, 2016. ↩ ↩2 ↩3 ↩4
5. "REID: Busting some myths about pedestrian collisions", Dylan Reid, Spacing Toronto. June 24, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2016. ↩
6. "Pedestrian Death Review: A Review of All Accidental Pedestrian Deaths in Ontario from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st 2010", Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario. June 2012. Accessed April 30, 2016. ↩ ↩2