Stepping out onto the bustling city streets of Toronto and the GTA, whether simply to grab a coffee or find your destination to the office, can often feel like entering a war zone. Due to increasing congestion on city streets, which is often accompanied by frustrated drivers and a bit of road rage from those who are simply fed up, means that accidents of both the vehicle on vehicle and vehicle on pedestrian form are a constant worry.
I know every time I prepare to make my way across a busy intersection, even when the walking- man symbol is visible and it is my right of way, I look left, right, and left again, taking extra precaution out of worry that I may become the latest victim and statistic of aggressive driving. School zones are of particular concern for worried parents and staff members who witness the aggression in these areas, despite signage that indicates speed limits are far lesser.
Mayor John Tory has realized the need to initiate a number of road safety projects particularly in school zones and intends to enforce the message “slow down Toronto,” within these zones. The initiatives are to be launched over the next few weeks and are part of Toronto City’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plans, estimated at a cost of $86 million, which is to partner with the Toronto Police Service school zone safety campaign.
Mayor Tory spoke at Cornell Junior Public School, alongside Deputy Chief Peter Yuen of the Toronto Police Services and Yvonne de Wit, Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, in addition to Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services.
“The safety of all pedestrians, but particularly children, must be a priority in this city. One pedestrian death is one too many. We are working to prevent these deaths and protect our residents across the city,” Mayor Tory stated. “We all have a responsibility to share our streets in a courteous and safe way. I am committed to making sure all those who use our roads – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – can get where they need to go as safely and efficiently as possible.”
The initiatives involve a two-week “Slow Down Toronto” campaign in school zones which are beginning this week. The campaign is to focus on traffic enforcement and driver education on “speed, distracted driving and aggressive driving,” which are all contributing factors to injuries and deaths in collisions.
Additionally, a one-year pilot project which will provide new and flexible traffic calming signs in 12 school zones across the city, will begin this week. The signs will be placed in the middle of roadways in these zones as a reminder to drivers. Other signs advise pedestrians to only cross at designated crosswalks.
The city is also ramping up the School Safety Zone program and will be retrofitting 80 schools in 2018, up from original plans to retrofit 20 schools annually.
Over 2018, the initiative will see new school zone safety signs with flashing beacons, school zone pavement stencils, “watch your speed” driver feedback signs, zebra markings at school crosswalks, examination of placing a school crossing guard at major crossings, and traffic calming measures beyond the front of schools.
Other initiatives meant to be launched this year include, implementing an automated speed enforcement pilot, reducing crossing distances via painted curb extensions, introducing a mobile “watch your speed” program, installing more senior safety zones and pedestrian safety corridors, as well as conducting more safety audits, making cyclist safety improvements and more.