While the city prepares to offer its plan for pedestrian safety next week, we present St. George, T.O.’s only street specifically designed for strolling folk. Why don’t other streets look like this? Blame it on car -addled ’crats in the transportation department.
Going with - and against - the flow
The good news: Toronto is the first city in North America to sign a pedestrian charter and to incorporate its principles - accessibility, equity, health and well-being, environmental sustainability, personal and community safety, and community cohesion and vitality - into the Official Plan.
In real life: In the two years since its adoption, the charter has inspired one sidewalk widening - proposed for a short stretch north of Bloor on Avenue Road. Not exactly walking wild.
The cars have it
The good news: The city's urban development services and planning departments embrace the idea that new development should incorporate pedestrian-friendly design.
In real life: The all-powerful transportation department's traffic flow concerns continually trump pedestrian-friendly design. Even modest measures like prohibiting right turns on red lights and allowing parking on streets during rush hour to slow traffic - and make walking safer - are roadblocked.
Pushing pedestrian power
The good news: The city embarked on a program "to enhance the safety of pedestrians."
In real life: The main thrust of the program has been to paint white "zebra stripes" at intersections along Mount Pleasant and Bathurst to make pedestrian crossings more visible to motorists. It includes no analysis or test of the relative safety of city streets or intersections.
The concrete results
The good news: The city's pedestrian safety plan includes completing 130 kilometres of "missing sidewalks" on arterial and collector roads.
In real life: It's going to take at least 10 years to complete, and there's no guarantee the $2 million budgeted annually for the program will be enough to complete the project.
The good news: The city agreed to study the Walking Security Index (WSI) developed by Ottawa prof Barry Wellar and earmarked cash to investigate how the system could be used to pinpoint troublesome roadways and intersections.
In real life: The city decided to kill adoption of the WSI based on a report from Ottawa that it was "impractical to successfully integrate... because it relies on a very large set of variables and costly data collection." In other words, it's too complicated.
Blurring the lines
The good news: The transportation department will table its own plan to measure pedestrian safety on November 9.
In real life: The city doesn't want an outside review of pedestrian safety, the theory goes, because of the legal liability attached to a negative appraisal - especially since lawyers for a girl seriously injured while crossing a signalled intersection in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, used Wellar's index to successfully prove negligence on that city's part in a $12 million suit.
Benefits of pedestrian-friendly streets
• When streetscaping measures improved pedestrian safety on a number of Toronto streets, accident rates went down and pedestrian traffic increased, as did local business.
• In Montreal, improvements to 12 dangerous intersections reduced collisions by 27 per cent and casualties by 53 per cent. Each dollar the city invested saved $14.20 in social costs.
Facts we don't need to be reminded of
Percentage of total traffic fatalities involving pedestrians: more than 50 Number of pedestrians injured every year in traffic collisions: more than 2,400 (an average of six people a day)
Number of pedestrian fatalities in 2003: 43
Number of pedestrian injuries in 2003: 2,329