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Toronto council to vote on road safety measures following pedestrian deaths

Last Updated Mar 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm EDT

People crossing the street while holding their cellphones in an undated file photo. GETTY IMAGES/Klaus Vedfelt

Toronto politicians are set to decide on measures that would redesign part of a major thoroughfare to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, a vote that comes as the city grapples with a spike in pedestrian deaths.

City staff have recommended that councillors approve a proposal to widen sidewalks on a 2.7-kilometre section of Yonge Street in a northern part of the city.

A staff report says the road has inconsistent sidewalk widths, lacks pedestrian crossings or medians, and doesn’t have dedicated “cycling facilities.”

It also recommends adding bike lanes to the road, but Mayor John Tory says he supports an alternative measure that would see the lanes added to a parallel street — something the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee has also supported.

The staff report says the changes should be implemented as part of a complete overhaul of that stretch of road, which hasn’t been upgraded since 1975.

City council, which is meeting today through Wednesday, is set to vote on the proposed measures as Toronto police statistics show 11 pedestrians died this year by March 19, compared to seven at the same time the previous year.

Cherise Burda, director of Ryerson University’s City Building Institute, said adopting the proposed measures is the right move for the city.

“If you narrow a road and you put a number of different users on the road, you’re going to improve the safety because you’re making a street more of a shared opportunity and more of a complete street,” she said. “People are looking, people are slowing down, there’s more going on on the street.”

Burda added that the measures would be a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to change what happens at street-level on that stretch of road.

On Monday evening, a group of activists that supports the proposed changes to Yonge Street is expected to hold a “die-in” outside City Hall to protest traffic deaths in the city.

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