Three cycling projects that will actually save lives

Vision Zero: Toronto is a long way to realizing its goal of zero deaths, but these projects will greatly reduce the risk for cyclists

Two years into Toronto’s Vision Zero road safety plan to reduce road deaths, it’s fair to say it’s a failure. 

Since 2016, 93 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed in traffic collisions with motorists. This year, 22 pedestrians and four cyclists have been killed, including a cyclist who was riding in the Bloor bike lane. 

The rash of deaths prompted council to double the spending allotted to Vision Zero programs to $43.3 million for 2018. The money will go to new traffic-calming measures, an expansion of a red-light camera program and a protected intersection pilot project. 

While the extra funding is a hopeful sign, activists say Toronto needs to do more to protect cyclists and pedestrians. The city is currently undertaking initiatives that would go a long way to realizing the goal of zero deaths, but many of them are still in the early stages, behind schedule or not being pursued aggressively enough. Here’s an update on three of those initiatives.  

Build more protected intersections 

Current status: The city has plans for 10 pilot projects thanks to new money for Vision Zero, but it’s unclear when the first one will be installed. 

Protected intersections, an idea that originated in the Netherlands, feature islands that separate cyclists from drivers at the four corners of an intersection, providing cyclists better visibility to turning traffic. 

“We’ve had a number of cyclists killed by trucks turning right,” says Liz Sutherland of Cycle Toronto. “These little islands force the driver to slow down, so they have better sightlines for anyone on a bike who might be coming up on their right.” 

Other Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa and Guelph, already have protected intersections.

According to Sutherland, it’s likely one of the pilot’s will be installed at Bloor and St. George, where 58-year-old Dalia Chako was killed in a collision with a flatbed truck in June. But the timeline for that project is still very much up in the air.  

Wynna Brown, communications manager for Vision Zero, says the city “will be holding a workshop with key stakeholders early this fall to look at next steps, design and potential locations.”

Fast-track the cycle network plan

Current status: Behind schedule.

The city’s original bike plan passed in 2001 called for a total of 1,000 kilometres of new bike lanes, trails and blue signed routes by 2011. When that ambitious plan was lagging behind schedule, activists lowered their expectations and asked council to approve a more doable bike plan for the city – a 10-year plan to add approximately 525 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure by 2026. Two years in, the city has managed to build 17 kilometres of separated bike lanes and 11.5 kilometres of painted bike lanes.

Now Cycle Toronto is calling on council to fast-track completion of the plan by 2022. and add protected bike lanes to major streets such as Danforth and Yonge north of Sheppard, a plan Mayor John Tory voted against earlier this spring. 

Expand the installation of red light and speed cameras at problem intersections

Current status:  The city launched a speed enforcement pilot -project earlier this month.

There are currently some 150 red light cameras throughout Toronto, which Sutherland says is “a drop in the bucket” when you consider there are more than 2,300 traffic signals. 

These cameras are placed at intersections that have seen a high number of collisions. 

According to the city, over 40 per cent of deaths at intersections are attributed to red-light running, and in locations where red light cameras are installed, the city says there’s been a 25 per cent decrease in injuries and fatalities. 

Earlier this month, the city announced another it’s launching an automated speed enforcement pilot program using photo radar technology in designated school and community safety zones. 

Running from September to December, the pilot will measure speeds and traffic volume, but no tickets will be issued to offenders under the project. That would require a change by the province to permit the use of speed cameras for enforcement. | @SamEdwardsTO 

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