September means back to school time. It can also mean back to work time for many adults who have take a summer vacation. That means our commutes are more crowded on the roads. Increased volumes of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are imminent.
The City of Toronto is in the midst of its Vision Zero comprehensive safety plan to reduce the number of fatality claims and serious injury claims on Toronto streets to ZERO. This is a bold objective. Starting in 2017 and lasting until 2021, Vision Zero believes that serious accident claims are preventable and ought to be totally eliminated.
I’ve not seen very much on Toronto streets when it comes to eliminating pedestrian/bike/car accidents on city streets. Attempts at segregated bike lanes ebb and flow depending on which way City Counsel is feeling that day. Increasing or decreasing speed limits, adding more (or less) red light cameras, better sequencing of traffic lights has been discussed and implemented to some form or extent.
But I would like to share with you a recent observation from right around the block from our Toronto Office near the busy corner of Yonge and Sheppard.
Directly across the street from Goldfinger Injury Lawyers’ Toronto Office is the Catholic District School Board. It’s a busy place, rumbling with students, parents, teachers, administrators etc. Within walking distance are a number of Catholic, Public and Private Schools as well. Right across the street are twin buildings which play host to the Small Claims Courts, Family Courts, OHIP Offices, ODSP Offices, Landlord Tenant Tribunal, accounting offices, law firms, and other professional offices. Across the street in the other direction are 4 high rise condominiums, the entrance to the Yonge/Sheppard Subway, a bustling mall with shops and a food court, along with other professional offices.
Hundreds (if not thousands) of people have to cross Sheppard Avenue in the morning, and Doris Avenue each day. It’s a very busy intersection for pedestrians and cars alike. Here is an image of the intersection via Google Maps.
For the first time in 15 years, there was a CROSSING GUARD for pedestrian traffic attempting to cross Sheppard Avenue and Doris!!!! On the back of the crossing guard’s bright yellow vest, there was a Vision Zero patch. On the front of the vest is another patch proudly stating On Contract With The City of Toronto. As if to tell the community that the City is now here, they have heard your calls to action and now something is being done. Low and behold, a cross guard in a shiny yellow vest at a busy intersection preventing car accidents, one at a time (so we hope).
I applaud whoever got the crossing guard out there to begin with. But one must ask himself: “Why has it taken 11 years to get a crossing guard at this busy intersection which sits within a stone’s throw from multiple schools, Courts, Government Offices and the Toronto District Catholic School Board Office?!?!?!?!?!” I know the wheels turn slowly at City Hall, but all of this is happening rather late in the game. Think of the accidents which could have been prevented had there been a crossing guard out there 11 years ago.
How do I know? Goldfinger Injury Lawyers Toronto Office has been at the Yonge/Sheppard location for over 11 years. Brian Goldfinger has seen car crashes, car/pedestrian accidents and car/bike accidents galore. A paralegal colleague was struck by a car trying to cross Sheppard Avenue at Doris by a car. He has not been the same since the car accident. Another colleague of Brian Goldfinger was struck by a car while walking on Doris Avenue near Sheppard. It’s not uncommon for vehicles to speed along Doris Avenue as a way to avert the stop and go congestion which exists on Yonge Street. But this speeding along a residential through fare causes dangerous conditions for motorist, cyclists and pedestrians.
This intersection near Yonge and Sheppard is unique given its situation to schools, courts, condos, and the head office of a large school board. But here are other unique intersections out there. One thing the City and Vision Zero ought to do is identify these unique intersection and allocate resources to have those intersections studied and maned accordingly. There are peak times, and there are down times. At peak times, the lights ought to be sequenced differently to accommodate both foot and vehicular traffic. At low times, light sequencing should change. Those intersections should also be maned with high visibility crossing guards (who are less expensive than police officers). Traffic studies will also tell us whether or not the current light sequencing that we have in place is appropriate for the flow of traffic. Think of the four way pedestrian cross at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. This was studied meticulously before it was implemented to make sure they got it right. Can the same attention to detail be used at other unique intersections across the City of Toronto. More than likely!
The reality is that Vision Zero comes down to MONEY. Brian Goldfinger is a realist in this regard. I recognize that the City coffers only run so deep and that money needs to be spread across the board to tackle the Citys unique sets of problems. But identifying which streets, intersections, stretches of roadway need help, and getting help to those parts is a good start for Vision Zero. The rest seems like grandiose political thought, without the application of common sense to get the job done.
Everyone wants the same thing: safe city streets. But accomplishing those goals must be more than a fancy slogan, a shiny patch or a crossing guard to give the false perception that something real is being done to accomplish the goals of Vision Zero. If you look at the stats, accidents are not slowing down and are not about to slow down any time soon. As more people come to the City of Toronto each year (about 100,000 new residents year over year) the streets are not going to get any less busy. Quite the opposite.