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John Tory vows action on cyclist safety amid calls for lower speed limits

Last Updated Jun 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm EDT

Another cyclist killed in a collision with a vehicle. Another photo of a twisted bicycle, followed by a another tweet offering condolences to the victim’s family.

The cyclist was a 58-year-old woman killed Tuesday while cycling near Bloor and St. George streets. The photo of her mangled bicycle was further evidence of the perils of cycling in Toronto, and the tweet was from Mayor John Tory — who faced a barrage of angry responses from those who feel he hasn’t done enough to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Former Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, was among those voicing her dismay online, and pleading for change.

In a tweet Tuesday, Keesmaat said it was time to “declare a State of Emergency” and said the “First step is to lower speed limits and enforce them.”

In a subsequent series of tweets, Keesmaat continued to argue that the most practical solution to the disturbing spate of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Toronto is to reduce driver speed.

“Slowing down on city streets prevents death,” she wrote. “If residents won’t do it voluntarily, it needs to be regulated.”

“Everyone needs to slow down,” she added. Reducing speed matters most.”

Mayor Tory responded to Keesmaat’s tweets on Wednesday while fielding questions about Toronto’s potential role in the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

“I think anybody who would suggest we are not seized with a sense of urgency about this is not being fair, but I acknowledge that we have to do more,” he said.

Some citizens and advocates for pedestrian and cycling safety accused Tory on Twitter of failing miserably to live up to the Vision Zero road safety plan he launched in January 2017.

“These are preventable deaths, and we’re going to take the steps necessary as a city to get that number down to zero,” Tory said when the initiative was launched.

Tory’s tweet offering condolences to the family of the woman killed on Tuesday sparked hundreds of angry responses from those who feel the mayor has done too much talking, but hasn’t taken enough action on the life-or-death issue.

Steve Masse said: “I’m frustrated and angry that politicians extend their thoughts and prayers, but fail to implement adequate protections for cyclists and pedestrians. I’m done with the excuses.”

Jay Wall added: “We don’t elect a Mayor or City Councillors to give us thoughts and prayers. No. Make good policy and then implement it like we’re dying out here. Because we are.”

When asked about the growing public anger about the issue on Wednesday, Tory maintained that pedestrian and cyclist safety is a top priority and he implored drivers to slow down and pay attention.

“Of all the things that gives me sleepless nights … it is this matter of people dying on the streets in safety related incidents that take lives of cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.

“I spent the first two hours of today … sitting with the people at city hall trying to figure out what we can do.”

“We are going to reconfigure roads, we are changing speed limits, we are putting up signs to tell people how fast they are going, we are enforcing the laws, we are bringing in photo radar, but people have to change, who are in cars and trucks, their own behaviour.”

Tory said that everyone has a shared responsibility for road safety, but stressed that “the principal onus for change and to get better results heading towards Vision Zero must rest with people who are drivers. And they have to slow down…”

While Tory maintained he was working to find solutions, some pointed towards other Canadian cities for ideas.