It has been a lethal year on the streets of Toronto. Twenty-three pedestrians have been killed so far in 2015, and last month, during Bike Month, three cyclists were killed within two weeks. After these tragedies, cyclists held a “die-in” at City Hall to honour the victims and call for action. I was there to witness this very moving protest.
Unfortunately, when these tragedies happen our legal system is not set up to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Negligent drivers are frequently not charged for their actions, even when deemed at fault.
I experienced this injustice firsthand last summer when a driver knocked me off my bike while I was cycling down Woodbine Avenue. The driver was initially charged with careless driving, but the charges were later withdrawn due to an administrative error.
Many American jurisdictions have passed ‘Vulnerable Road User’ laws, including New York, Oregon, and Illinois. These laws protect road users who are non-motorized and not encased by steel.
At council I put forward a motion to request that the province create new legislation to protect our vulnerable road users, and I was thrilled that it passed 36-2.
This law would impose greater penalties against negligent drivers for injuring or killing vulnerable road users, make it mandatory for drivers to be present in court for the reading of victim impact statements as well as at the time of sentencing, and consider increased penalties for negligent drivers.
This law would recognize that these deaths on our streets are preventable. When harsher penalties were imposed for drinking and driving a generation ago, attitudes and behaviour soon shifted. The number of pedestrian and cycling deaths in Toronto makes it clear that it’s time for Ontario to implement a vulnerable road user law. We need a shift. We need to slow down. We need to share the road.
Creating a network of separated bike lanes is also a big part of the solution to make our roads safer for all. Council recently approved the extension of the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes, which will connect with my personal favourite, Sherbourne!
Toronto is currently developing a 10-year plan for expanding the network. Please take the time to participate and fill out the survey to help set the priorities by visiting torontocyclingnetwork.info.
I often ride along the Danforth, and dream of separated lanes that would connect our city from east to west. There is a campaign underway called ‘Danforth Loves Bikes’ that is advocating for a pilot bike lane on the Danny!
Some of the most common concerns I hear from residents in Ward 32 are speeding on residential streets and requests for traffic calming. Recently at Toronto and East York Community Council, we unanimously voted to reduce the speed limit on local roads from 40 km/h to 30 km/h. This will improve safety for our pedestrians and cyclists.
It has been shown that pedestrians have a 90 per cent chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h or lower, but less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h.
The new speed limit signs will roll out across Toronto and East York over the next two years.
These steps make me optimistic that we are moving towards making our streets safer for our children, seniors, and our vulnerable road users.
Stay safe this summer!