Pedestrian Deaths in Toronto

Edited by Admin
Pedestrian Deaths in Toronto

Pedestrian Deaths in Toronto


Toronto’s Vision Zero project was launched in 2017 with the aim of reducing pedestrian deaths in the city to zero, but despite this initiative, people continue to die on GTA streets. With an all-time high of 41 pedestrian deaths in 2018, and with a 2019 figure of 33 deaths several weeks before year’s end, it seems that present Vision Zero measures have not been entirely effective. The mayor and city council are rolling out new ways to reduce what Mayor John Tory calls the “carnage” on Toronto streets. There’s a 2019 iteration of Vision Zero that adds more strategies and targets more facets of the problem. But does it go far enough? What are the challenges we face when trying to reduce pedestrian deaths in Toronto? What options are available to change the way vehicles and pedestrians interact in the city? Is it possible to reach the goal of zero deaths on our streets?



Why Pedestrians Are Killed


The streets of our city have a great number of demands on them. Toronto is North America’s fastest-growing city – and also its most congested. And unfortunately, with more vehicles hitting the roads each year, congestion is inevitable. In recent years, the number of commuters using bicycles has increased greatly, leading to cries for bike lanes on busy routes. Many intersections are difficult for all to navigate, as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians jockey for position, many unaware of what the safety rules are. In 2018, Toronto Star reporters watched the intersection at Richmond and Bay for two hours and observed a terrifying 609 infractions by both drivers and cyclists.


We can also learn something by looking at the specific details of pedestrian fatalities. For several years, the highest numbers have come from suburban areas of the GTA. There are a number of reasons why this might be true. The distance between crosswalks and/or intersections with lights is generally greater in the suburbs, which were designed with arterial roads as a feature. These arterial roads, often many lanes wide are both harder to cross, and magnets for speeders. Research shows that more than 70% of pedestrians killed were crossing not at a crosswalk or intersection, but mid-block. As well, there are often fewer streetlights in these areas, leading to poorer visibility during certain times of day.


Another big factor is the age of the victims. Of the 33 people that have lost their lives so far this year, 18 of them were senior citizens, and the percentages are similar for 2018’s statistics. There could be a variety of reasons for this, but certainly this fact calls for city officials to pay special attention to roadways and areas where seniors’ residences and homes are located.


Finally, the types of vehicles involved in a pedestrian accident can make a difference as to whether the victim lives or dies. With more SUVs and minivans on the roads, the chances that a pedestrian accident will lead to death has increased. Almost 40% of pedestrians who die after being struck are hit by a minivan, pickup truck, van or sport utility vehicle; these vehicles are heavier and sit higher, meaning that they tend to hit a person's torso rather than the legs.


Looking for Solutions


The original Vision Zero project has been updated and nicknamed “Vison Zero 2.0,” and it includes:

  • Lowering speed limits on arterial roads around the city.
  • Creating more mid-block crosswalks.
  • Installing more red light cameras. 
  • Putting in photo radar systems to catch speeding drivers.
  • Changes to road design.
  • Adding more signals to intersections to give pedestrians a head start.


These types of strategies have been found to work in other jurisdictions; targeting areas of the GTA where one or more of these solutions can be implemented is a start. Funding the initiative robustly is necessary, since each of these strategies requires designers, workers, and equipment to make it happen. The New York City Vision Zero program spent the equivalent of $244 per capita in 2018, while the funds Toronto dedicated to their Vision Zero project amounted to only $34 per capita. 


But there are some other tactics that would help to reduce pedestrian deaths in Toronto, including:

  • Expanding and improving public transit to help get vehicles off the roads.
  • Rigourously enforcing existing laws against speeding, including charging drivers who are caught speeding on camera.
  • Discouraging jaywalking through fines and public education.
  • Staggering work hours so as to reduce “rush hour” congestion.
  • Employing new pedestrian detection technologies.
  • Adding protected bike lanes to the mix.
  • Better driver education with regard to pedestrian and bicycle safety.


It’s becoming obvious that ending tragic pedestrian deaths on the streets of the GTA won’t be simple. There must be a multi-pronged, well-funded initiative in order for the city to reach its goal of zero deaths. If political will is strong enough, it may be possible to see, at the very least, a reduction in the number of people who die due to vehicle-pedestrian collisions.