Saturday, January 16, 2010

Greater GTA (Suburban Toronto) more deadly for pedestrians, study shows


TORONTO From Saturday's Globe and Mail

A recent spate of roadside pedestrian deaths - a mother killed pushing her infant son, an 80-year-old woman crossing the street - has raised questions about how dangerous Toronto really is for people on foot.

In spite of the heavy traffic that clogs the city's downtown, pedestrians are more likely to be mowed down by vehicles outside the core, according to statistics provided by the Toronto police.

Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough all proved deadlier than central Toronto over the past three years: More people were killed overall in the outer boroughs as the open suburban streets with their widely spaced intersections transformed into mini-highways in the minds of motorists, and, in some cases, pedestrians failed to follow the rules of the road.

Last year saw a total of 19 pedestrian deaths in those outer regions compared with 12 downtown - a picture similar to previous years. And despite the heavy foot traffic downtown, some of the most dangerous intersections for making right turns and hitting pedestrians were north of the city's hub.

"Even though there are not as many pedestrians out there, when there is a collision in those outskirts it's usually pretty horrific," said Constable Hugh Smith of Traffic Services.

Just two weeks into the new year, there have been grim reminders of how fragile life can be walking the streets of Toronto and beyond. Marites Mendoza was pronounced dead soon after ambulances arrived at Martin Grove Road and Eglinton Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. She was pushing her seven-week-old son in a stroller when a Toyota Camry driven by an 83-year-old woman allegedly ran a red light. The child survived.

On the same day, an 80-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car at Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue as she crossed the intersection with her 42-year-old son outside the pedestrian-designated area, police said.

Such tragedies raise questions about road design and what can be done to get motorists and pedestrians to slow down. Constable Smith said that in areas such as the Beach, heavy pedestrian traffic coupled with more crosswalks, traffic lights and speed bumps force drivers to move more slowly and to increase their awareness.

But the outskirts are built for cars, not necessarily people. The roads are wider, more difficult to cross, and the cars move that much faster. The two most common ways pedestrians are injured? Cars rushing through left or right turns where pedestrians are moving along the crosswalk, and pedestrians crossing against the signal or illegally walking into the roadway.

"Everything is preventable to me. All collisions are preventable," Constable Smith said. He added that police are working on a road-safety information campaign, targeting groups such as seniors and high-school students.

Dylan Reid, co-chair of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee, a citizens advisory group, wants more done. Outside the core, he's noticed the lines on crosswalks have faded and cars drive above the speed limit. As a result, drivers have less time to react when pedestrians rush in front of their cars.

"It's frustrating to think that there are lots of things that can be done to make walking much safer in Toronto. The city knows what needs to be done, and the city has said it wants to do them, but these things are happening very slowly," Mr. Reid said.

Pedestrian advocates said time is of the essence as baby boomers age and are eventually forced to abandon their vehicles. The number of seniors killed in traffic accidents continues to climb: About 60 per cent of pedestrian fatalities last year were among those over 65, compared with 44 per cent the previous year.

Mike Brady, manager of traffic safety for Toronto Transportation Services, said the city has almost completed the pedestrian countdown signal program and is moving to put more markings on crosswalks. He noted that the number of pedestrians injured in motor-vehicle collisions has remained relatively constant over the past few years, even as the population has increased.

"The city is doing the best it can to mitigate these [accidents]," Mr. Brady said. "The pedestrians themselves are more aware of the risks of walking across the street, and motorists also are more aware."


Dangerous crossings

Here are the top 10 Toronto intersections where collisions have occurred as a result of vehicles making right turns and striking pedestrians crossing with and without the right of way, resulting in serious injury.

1. Bathurst St and

Finch Ave W

2. Birchmount Rd and

Sheppard Ave E

3. Bathurst St and

King St W

4. McCowan Rd and

Sheppard Ave E

5. Yonge St and

Finch Ave E

6. Sheppard Ave E and

Parkway Forest Dr

7. Dundas St W and

Spadina Ave

8. Weston Rd and

Finch Ave W

9. Gerrard St E

and Main St

10. Bloor St W and

Lansdowne Ave


2009: 31*

Downtown core: 12

Etobicoke: 2

North York: 11

Scarborough: 6

*includes 19 seniors (65+)


2007: 2,295

2008: 2,059

2009: 2,025

*ranges from fatalities to small bumps

~~Editor's Note~~
Pedestrians and drivers need to take more responsibility for shared road safety. Pedestrians should continually assess their safety as they cross the street and never assume that their right of way gaurantees safety. Look in all directions before you proceed onto a roadway and continue to look. Drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings, never turn your vehicle without looking in the direction you intend to go and scan the entire area around your path of travel.


  1. That's very terrible news for Toronto people

    What it Toronto Govt. doing to stop this things, Govt. should take some steps to stop this kind of things


    Student of Toronto college

  2. Hey Mike.
    Good question and timely. There is a meeting today with the City, to address these issues and to ensure everything that can be done is being done. Also to explore if there is anything else that can be done.
    The city has an excellent working committee that deals with pedestrian issues, a works team that ensures all of our infrastructure is safe and adequate and a transportation department that supplies great annalyasis of all things related to roads.
    The police rely on all of these departments as well as others that provide demographic information, population density and access to city programs.
    One fear that I have is people believe that governments are required to tell us how to cross the street, walk safely and use common sense. Those are very personal things that should be taught by parents to the young, enforced by peers of the adults and reminded by the children of the elderly.