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Mayor Tory pledges crackdown to curb pedestrian, cyclist deaths

City of Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks during a press conference regarding the court's stay of an earlier court ruling, returning Toronto's election to a 25-ward race, in Toronto on September 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto Mayor John Tory has pledged to lower speed limits and crack down on scofflaw motorists in an effort to cut down on the number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city.

Speaking at a business lunch on Wednesday, the mayor called last year’s 41 pedestrian deaths unacceptable and frequently preventable.

“We simply must do a better job of catching and penalizing these drivers who clearly disregard pedestrian safety and endanger others by driving recklessly,” Tory said. “That’s also why I am fighting for automated speed enforcement on our roads.”

Safety advocates have criticized city officials for dragging their feet on safety measures to avoid any further disadvantage to harried motorists already struggling with choked roads and gridlock.

In outlining his “Vision Zero 2.0” to curb pedestrian deaths, Tory cited examples of outrageous driving uncovered during tests of speed cameras that began last year. In one case, a driver was found doing 127 kilometres an hour on part of the key Queen Street thoroughfare that has a 40-kilometre speed limit. Another driver was doing 202 kilometres an hour in a 40 zone in the northwest of the city.

The city would be pushing provincial regulators and its own staff to ensure that speed cameras are deployed in school and community safety zones across the city by September, the mayor said.

Tory noted that a significant fraction of pedestrian deaths occurred in the city’s east-end area of Scarborough, with its plethora of multi-lane arterial roads that have speed limits of 60 kilometres per hour or higher. The area also has much longer walking distances between protected, safe crossings compared to other parts of the city, making it unwieldy for many people to head for safer places to cross.

For example, a recent study found the longest walking distance between protected crossings in Scarborough is 870 metres on average — almost double that in the city core. That adds as much as six walking minutes just to get to a safe cross-walk.

“Which is why more pedestrians are being killed in Scarborough than any other area of the city,” Tory said. “That plus vehicles speeding through red lights.”

The city has previously committed to spending $109 million between 2017 and 2021 to curb pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Some of the money has been used to give pedestrians a head start at traffic crossings, and to install dozens of red-light cameras. So far, the province has agreed to allow photo radar in school and community-safety zones.

Along with an increase in red-light cameras, Tory called for lowering the speed limit on arterial roads across the city — although he did not specify what he thought the limit should be — as well as more mid-block crossings.

“We can, and must, do more to keep people safe on our roads,” the mayor said. “I believe the majority of Torontonians understand these are the changes we must make to place safety first in a growing city.”