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.

Ward 11 Cycle and Pedestrian Report for Weston / Mount Dennis

The recently released ‘MOVING FORWARD‘ is ‘An Action Plan to Improve Safety and Opportunities for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Ward 11’. It’s a huge and detailed report by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee (PSCC) and contains 31 recommendations. The plan was commissioned by Councillor Frances Nunziata in an effort to create a safe environment for cyclists and pedestrians in Ward 11. It has already received praise in other jurisdictions.

One of the slogans used by the authors is, “A safe pedestrian is a happy pedestrian.” If I may be so bold as to suggest a corollary, “An unsafe pedestrian or cyclist becomes a motorist”.

A map of Ward 11 with locations of recommendations. (From the report.) Click to enlarge.

The PSCC Plan has 31 recommendations grouped around four main areas:

  1. Pedestrian safety
  2. Add safe cycling options to our streets and roads.
  3. Ensure that people can reach key destinations safely by walking or cycling
  4. Ideas that don’t fit into 1-3.

It’s well worth a read. Let’s hope it doesn’t gather dust somewhere.