Last year, many Torontonians were appalled by the news that on a December day, four pedestrians were killed across the Great Toronto Area. Less than a month ago before that day, police reports said that 17 pedestrians were struck by vehicles within a span of one evening.
These are incredibly disappointing. Even Mayor John Tory, in a CBC interview, admitted the failure of the Vision Zero strategy, which aims to increase road safety in the most populated city in Canada.
Introduced in 2016, the strategy planned to decrease the number of traffic deaths and injuries by 20 per cent in 10 years. The Mayor, facing pressures from the public, announced his ambition on the campaign’s launch day— to eliminate road fatalities completely within five years.
Despite the $100-million budget over five years, the strategy has kept frustrating the public: 39 pedestrians were killed in 2016, the initial year of Vision Zero, 36 in 2017 and 38 in 2018.
When a traffic accident occurs, pedestrians are the most vulnerable. From 2007 to 2017, 2075 road accidents involved pedestrians in the city of Toronto, causing 333 fatalities, among which, 331 were pedestrians, according to the analysis on police data.
No wonder the Mayor expressed his disappointment because his “goal of reducing annual road fatalities to zero is nowhere in sight,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s editorial.
Toronto Police Department keeps data sets that track traffic collisions in the city. Putting them on a map, it’s obvious that pedestrian-involved accidents happen all over the city, but there are hot spots that accidents happen more often or involve more individuals.
Hotspots Map: Pedestrians-involved Collisions (2007-2017)
Note: Zoom in and click individual dots for more details. Click here to view the map in full-screen.
Sometimes the reasons are obvious: the more people, the higher the chance collisions happen. The downtown area, bounded by Spadina Ave., Lakeshore Blvd., Parliament St. and Dundas St., has the highest density of accidents as the region witnesses the most human activities and traffic.
The intersection of Dundas St. West and Spadina Ave., at the heart of downtown Toronto, always hustle and bustle with endless flows of pedestrians and traffic, without doubt, is the deadliest for pedestrians as 6 had been killed in a decade. The oldest death among them was an 81-year-old man, who was struck by a streetcar while crossing one streetcar platform to the one across Sullivan St.
Outside of the city center, Scarborough and North York also have higher amounts of pedestrian fatalities. It is in fact a trend showcasing in many major metropolitan areas across North America: bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise in suburbs. The reasons can be multiple: busy arterial roads, absent or poorly marked crosswalks, absence of sidewalks, and lax law enforcement.
Another possible reason is that there are heavier and larger-sized vehicles traveling in the suburbs. An accident happened on July 18, 2007 in Scarborough is the most horrifying that Toronto had seen in ten years. Fourteen individuals were involved, among whom, eight were injured and one woman was killed.
For every metropolitan, relationships between pedestrians and vehicles have always been a headache. This is particularly the case in the United States and Canada, countries that heavily depend on automobiles.
Among the fastest growing cities in the world, the traffic development lags Toronto’s growth. I have felt tired of the frequent and old-patterned media coverage on traffic accidents. However, what disturbs me more is the fact that the accident severity keeps accelerating.
Technical notes: Data are available through the Toronto Police Service Public Safety Data Portal. You can find complete code for this on my Github page.