In Toronto’s downtown east end, in the area surrounding the intersection of Queen St East and Carlaw Ave, parents are concerned about road safety. The neighbourhood’s population has swelled in recent years, resulting in more traffic and, according to residents, more instances of speeding and reckless driving.
“Crossing the street you feel like you’re taking your life in your hands sometimes,” Michelle Warren, who lives in the area, told the CBC. “It’s unbelievable the lack of awareness about pedestrians, especially kids.”
Law enforcement officers and personal injury lawyers have seen a steady rise in traffic injuries in Toronto and the city’s population has grown, especially downtown.
Residents are particularly concerned about the safety of students attending Morse Street Junior Public School, located just south of Queen on Carlaw, and are calling for additional safety measures to be instated. Parents want two crossing guards returned to their stations after Toronto Police removed them last fall, and Ward 30 City Councillor Paula Fletcher hopes to stem dangerous driving by eliminating right turns.
The wishes of the residents of Carlaw and Queen are not unique in Toronto. According to a poll commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, more than 80 per cent of Toronto residents support lower speed limits and improved cycling infrastructure. While proponents of these measures acknowledge they could cause longer drive times, the potential inconvenience is considered a small price to pay for reduced injuries and fatalities.
While city planning professionals, personal injury lawyers, and the majority of city residents are on board with a more aggressive road safety strategy, opposition to lower speed limits stubbornly remains. Etobicoke Centre Councillor Stephen Holyday, for example, told a Toronto Star reporter that “if drivers and cyclists and pedestrians are collectively frustrated by increased controls and configuration changes, that raises the stress level and raises aggression.”
The implication here is that reduced speed limits could actually cost more lives than they save. However, experts on the subject are united in their rejection of this idea.
“It has not been the case anywhere,” Gil Penalosa, founder of 8-80 Cities, told Toronto Star columnist Edward Keenan for a June opinion piece. “Everywhere they have reduced speeds, they reduce accidents. They reduce deaths.”
“In 20 years of working on traffic safety issues, I’ve not seen evidence to back up the claim … about detrimental impacts on safety,” added Vision Zero Network founder Leah Shahum.
Even while political disputes delay meaningful progress on road safety measures, advocates and Toronto personal injury lawyers must continue to promote actions like lower speed limits that will reduce fatalities on the city’s streets.