More thoughts on distracted pedestrians

Screengrab from toronto.ctvnews.ca

I’ve often said that the most dangerous thing anyone can do in Weston is walk across the street. It’s true; 40 pedestrians in Toronto were killed last year in the second full year of Zero Vision Vision Zero. Many more suffered life altering injuries. This is the initiative designed to bring Toronto’s annual traffic-related carnage to zero fatalities by 2021.

So far, Vision Zero has been an abject failure – pedestrian fatalities rose from 37 to 40 between 2017 and 2018.

Vision Zero faces an uphill battle in our city with its woefully inadequate public transit and streets designed to favour cars. Many suburban car owners opt to drive downtown rather than suffer a longer and less comfortable time on Toronto’s poorly planned and overcrowded transit system. These drivers want clearer streets, higher speed limits and no pesky buses, cyclists or pedestrians getting in the way.

Many motor-minded folks put the blame for traffic collisions squarely on inattentive pedestrians and cyclists. They also blame them for not wearing appropriately coloured clothing. This is the school of thought that says pedestrians and cyclists should wear glow-in-the-dark fluorescent clothing while cyclists should be licensed and insured, wear bright orange and pay road tax. As Adam says, they blame the victims.

When pedestrians and cyclists are inattentive, they largely put themselves at risk. Inattentive motorists pose a risk to all road users. 1600 kilos of metal travelling at 60 km/h is far more dangerous than 100 kilos of flesh and bone walking at 6 km/h or even 26 km/h on a bike. Mathematically, the onus for care and attention should be at hundreds of times greater on the motorist than the pedestrian but somehow drivers feel the obligation is an equal one. (Mathematical purists – I understand the speed thing makes the multiple even higher but I’m on a roll here. Please feel free to calculate a better answer.)

From Toronto.com

What about pedestrians crossing the road away from a designated crossing? This is perfectly legal 30 metres or more from a crossing or intersection. Motorists should expect to see pedestrians crossing the road between intersections and drive accordingly.

What about the people being killed? The vast majority are in Scarborough where speed limits are generally higher. They are also predominantly older – not nimble enough to make it across in time. As the old saying goes; speed kills. A reduction in the speed of traffic is a big answer to traffic injuries and fatalities.

From Pressreader.com. Click to enlarge.

Finally:

  • This is clearly an equity issue (not just for seniors) and one that should have top priority.
  • Toronto Council has failed for years to build the bike lanes that it has approved. The current pace has averaged a dismal 20 km annually. There’s a fresh set of such promises for 2019 and beyond (they claim this time they mean it).
  • North America’s safest city is Montréal. We should study what they do there. For example, Montréal’s bike network exceeds 350 km compared to Toronto’s pitiful and disjointed <150 km.
  • The disturbing uptick in fatalities may be caused by drivers attending to their phones. There needs to be a solution to this problem. Perhaps technology is the answer.
  • Councillor Nunziata was responsible for establishing a committee which came up with an awesome action plan to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists (in old Ward 11). Many of the recommendations are excellent and hopefully they will be updated to include old Ward 12 and implemented asap. Ms. Nunziata is taking predictable flak for supporting bike lanes on Scarlett Road south of Eglinton. She should be applauded for this initiative.

Nunziata blames distracted pedestrians for getting killed

City Council voted unanimously this week to adopt the Vision Zero 2.0 program, which aims to end pedestrian deaths in Toronto. Version 1.0 was, at best, only partially successful: 47 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in Toronto in 2018, two more than in 2017.

The 2.0 plan will “reduce speed limits on dozens of arterial roads across Toronto, install more sidewalks and implement more pedestrian head-start signals, among other measures”.

Frances Nunziata acknowledged the challenges councillors face: “it’s just constantly people wanting traffic calming, speed humps, they want stop signs, they want lights, because it’s really an issue throughout this city.” And Nunziata has been very good about getting speed humps and slowing traffic. Her office has also been working on a cycling plan for the ward.

However, in discussion, she blamed distracted cyclists and pedestrians for their own deaths.

I think it’s important that pedestrians are educated as well, when they’re crossing the street and cyclists as well. You see so many pedestrians crossing the street at an intersection, texting on their phone, talking on their phone, with their earphones, and they’re walking across the street, red light, or they’re not even crossing at an intersection, and that’s very dangerous  as well. And you know, continues to happen, and you know, I know a few years ago, I put a motion through that they should be fined. The province did not support that at that time, but if you… a lot more of them are not paying attention to the roads, the pedestrians, and I think there’s a lot of fatalities as well because there’s no education and they’re not paying attention and the cyclists as well, when they’ve got the earphones, and they’re not hearing, and  they’re not paying attention the road safety. So I think it’s not just for the motorists, it’s for the pedestrians, the cyclists, all of us have to share in making our streets safer.


In 2016, Nunziata asked the province to ticket distracted pedestrians, an idea that was quickly shot down.  She has also called for cyclists to be licensed, an idea proven to be terrible.

Good news for Pan Am Trail cyclists.

The Pan Am Path passes through Weston, albeit grudgingly. Cyclists wishing to take the trail north of Cruickshank Park are forced to take a steep climb up the steps to the intersection of Weston and St. Phillips roads. In order to re-join the trail, a dangerous stretch of Weston Road must be traversed safely – from personal experience, this is no easy picnic.

The good news is that the multi use trail will have some new intersections as it crosses the Humber heading towards Dundas. Scarlett Road will be getting bike lanes along that stretch.

Looking south from Scarlett Rd and St Clair Ave W
The proposed new and improved intersection at Scarlett and Dundas.

The driving force for this comes from surveys and a public meeting held in late 2017 to discuss issues around the upgrading of the intersection at Scarlett and Dundas. Plans are to widen the space under the tracks and lower Scarlett to end the traffic bottleneck and height restrictions at that location. At the public meeting, among other things, the need for separated bike lanes was expressed. Plans were modified over the past year to include these as seen in the map and cross-section below.

Map of bike lane (cycle track) along Scarlett Road from the Humber River to just north St. Clair Avenue at Bernice Crescent. Options for cycling connections to Scarlett Road being considered for the future include Eileen Avenue to Pritchard Avenue or Eileen Avenue to Corbett Avenue.

A meeting to discuss the latest plans will be held early next week.

Date: Monday, April 29, 2019
Time: Drop in 6:30 to 9 p.m.. Presentation at 7 p.m.
Location: Lambton Park Community School, 50 Bernice Cres., Wheelchair accessible.

This meeting was requested by local Councillor Frances Nunziata who will be in attendance alongside Councillor Gord Perks.

For more details, click here.

Vulnerable road users supported at City Hall

City Council voted this week to ask the province to pass the vulnerable road users bill, which is now in first reading.

The bill would increase punishments for drivers who hurt or kill pedestrians, cyclists, road-workers, and emergency responders. Drivers would be put on probation, be forced to attend court (where they could hear victim-impact statements) and do community service.

The bill is supported by the family of Gary Sims, who was killed in Mount Dennis by a driver making a right turn into a driveway. The driver received a $500 fine.

 

Killer gets $500 fine

Zivorad Simich will get a $500 fine for his part in an accident that killed Gary Sim, a bicyclist.

Simich turned right into a shopping mall just ahead of Gary Sim, who was riding on the sidewalk. Sim was seriously hurt, and died later in hospital. The Toronto Star covered the case.

Simich pleaded not guilty. He said he braked and signalled before turning, and couldn’t explain why he failed to see Sim either as he passed him or when he checked his mirror before making the turn. The court heard the van he was driving had no rear windows.

Gary Sim
From The Star

The NDP has introduced a bill that would increase penalties for drivers who injure vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists, pedestrians, police officers and construction workers.

The bill would put drivers on probation, force them to attend court to hear their sentences (they have been able to avoid hearing victim impact statements in the past), and do community service.

Councillor Nunziata; it’s legacy time.

The results are in and the unfair effect of name recognition was once again an overwhelming factor in Toronto elections. The two incumbents in newly created Ward 5 topped the poll despite spirited campaigns, especially from Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye. Even Frances Nunziata must have realized during her campaign that there was a yearning for change. Indeed, the vast majority of voters chose another candidate. About 68% of electors who bothered to vote, chose someone other than her.

Now for the more depressing part; voter participation was significantly down across the city and fewer than 38% of YSW eligible voters bothered to vote according to my calculations. The average for Toronto was about 41%. In effect, Ms. Nunziata retained her job thanks to about 12% of electors.

Given the march of time, Frances Nunziata only has a few years left at council before she retires or a more compelling candidate beats her in an upcoming election. What will be her legacy? Frances herself struggled to list her accomplishments when debating other candidates. Many pointed to the decline in Weston’s fortunes over the past several decades of her tenure. Weston and Mount Dennis are slowly beginning to emerge from years of neglect and disinterest, mainly thanks to the UP Express, all day GO Train service and the expansion of the city to the suburbs; none of which she can legitimately claim credit for.

It’s not all bad; there are some minor achievements – will she be remembered for the Weston Common / Hub / Storage Unit? Remember, the original concept was for an arts and cultural centre and year round (indoor outdoor) farmers market. What about the car-focussed community centre at Black Creek and Eglinton? There are critics of both of these projects while others have a legitimate claim to shared parentage.

The original Weston Hub concept as it was sold to the community. (Click to enlarge)

There are some notable failures on her record. The persistent flooding in parts of the ward surely should have been fixed by now. The shabby public domain and the lack of progress on a bicycle network are two others that quickly come to mind.

Frances began her political career as a corruption fighter, exposing and taking on crooked politicians. That reputation is long behind her. Now she is best known for her role as Council Speaker. There are many critics of her voting record which was the closest of any councillor to that of Mayor Tory – over 90% of the time. This blog has long criticized some of her positions which often seem to work against residents who are struggling.

Speakers are chosen by a council vote. Given the dramatic changes to Council, it will be interesting to see if Ms Nunziata can win a third term in that prestigious yet challenging position. Now that Mammoliti has gone, the job may be a lot more attractive to others in the chamber. Losing the Speaker’s job would certainly give her more time to work on the larger ward she now governs.

Regardless; for this new term, Ms Nunziata needs to find bold projects that inspire and uplift our community if she is to be remembered for anything other than her long years in office. Whether she can do this over the next four years remains to be seen.

I for one hope she can.

Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.

If Doug Ford hadn’t screwed everything up, this would be an easy choice. But he did, and now it isn’t.

For the first time I can remember, we are spoiled for choice in York South-Weston. We have four strong contenders, and three of them are worthy choices.

The recent amalgamation of the ward brought Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata into close combat. Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye are attacking their left flanks.

Me, I’m going to vote for Lekan Olawoye. I won’t pretend I have good reasons for doing so, though.

I came to this conclusion slowly—although I was able to eliminate most of the candidates quickly. I started by zapping the outside-chance contenders; I’m sure most of them are fine people, but their relative absence and small chances in this high-stakes race make them non-starters for me.

Frank Di Giorgio was next to go. He is too conservative and was too close to Rob Ford. He votes against Toronto’s interests. He attends council meetings infrequently—and opposes bike lanes—and that alone is a deal-breaker for me.

That leaves three: Nunziata, Olawoye, and Padovani.

I like Frances Nunziata, as a rule. She is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she calls you back. She fixes problems, and she’s given her riding endless hours of underpaid service. Finally, she is an excellent tactician.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Weston has fallen on harder times under her leadership. Certainly, most of these problems are not of her making—she’s subject to decisions made above her pay grade, just like the rest of us. I think, however, that with different leadership, things might have been better. That’s because she is not an excellent strategist.

Take payday loan shops, just as an index of what I’m talking about. We have too many, and they have dubious social value. I think the job they do would be better done by our oligopoly of banks, which enjoy one side of a social contract but are allowed to ignore the other: they get a government guarantee but shirk the social responsibility. Banks are allowed to close, leaving low-income and low-mobility clients (often one and the same) in the hands of high-interest lenders.

I know Frances can’t do much about closing banks. That’s for our provincial and federal masters to tackle. But she could have made Weston, bit by bit, an environment that banks don’t want to leave, with improved streetscapes, better local businesses, and improved transit. She’s been working on these, lately, but too lately for me.

Of course, it’s not about payday loans; it’s about all the things like them—the small, strategic failures that have let Weston down. What happened the long-promised college campus? The Humber River Trail link? St John the Evangelist? Buses on Jane? All are long-term projects; none have happened. Strategy.

That leaves Padovani and Olawoye.

Lekan and Chiara are too close ideologically to fit a card between. I went so far as to create a spreadsheet, and if I recall correctly, Padovani doesn’t have a parks plan but she does want the city to tackle climate change, while Olawoye has a parks plan but says nothing about climate change. Or vice versa.

It really doesn’t matter, because I can’t imagine Lekan (or Chiara) being against the climate or parks.

So, with two equally good candidates, I would normally back the one most likely to win. It seemed, for a moment, that Chiara was in that position. Then it emerged that Lekan had been left off the poll. And Lekan had a handy lead last time… and the polls have been showing wild swings anyway, which is understandable given how small the sample is. Finally, neither Olawoye nor Padovani is likely to defeat Nunziata. So who knows?

That leaves, as far as I can tell, character. Argh. What, really, do I know about character? Nothing.

My interactions with Lekan and Chiara have been vanishingly brief, and both left me with the impression that they were excellent, principled, hard-working and ambitious people. We are lucky to have them volunteering for such a lousy job.

So I’m left peering at the sediments, trying to divine some worthy grounds on which to make a decision.

Here’s what it comes down to: I like Lekan a little more. He seems more grounded, more open, and less partisan. He seems a  little less certain, and I like that. He’s been in the community, working hard, for longer, and he’s had tough positions at MaRS downtown. I like that too.

With so little to distinguish excellent candidates, that’s all I have to work with. We can blame Doug Ford for that—it was not supposed to be like this.