Special Report: Walkable Streets

Enough is Enough: No More Pedestrian Carnage

City streets designed for slow-moving automobile traffic are streets designed to be inherently safe.

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 02, 2012

Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star's urbanist-in-residence, has responded to the tragic spate of pedestrian collisions - two dead and nine injured in separate incidents over a 24-hour period - with a customary blast of bullshit-dispelling, cant-free incision. He writes:

[A]s the intersection of Yonge and Harbour makes clear, such a body count is entirely predictable; pedestrians in Toronto often find themselves sacrificial lambs, collateral damage or unintended victims of transportation policies that view them as expendable.

After describing the area in greater detail, Hume concludes:

Though police would disagree, the safest way to cross this stretch of Yonge is to jaywalk, necessary even on a green light. Only then can one ensure one's own safety.

The cops would advise otherwise, naturally. But because they don't pay attention, they have little understanding of how the streets of Toronto really work for pedestrians. What interests police are highways, not city streets. Out there on the 401 there are no pedestrians to get in the way, which is just how they'd like it to be downtown.

Strictly speaking, there is no such charge as "jaywalking". The term comes from early 1900s slang for a person from the rurals coming to a big city and not understanding how the streets work. The standard charge against pedestrians crossing mid-block is section 144(22) of the Highway Traffic Act, which states:

Where portions of a roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked.

The application of this rule is fuzzy and depends on the police officer's judgment of whether a charge would be upheld in court, but the general premise is that you are not allowed to cross a street outside of a crosswalk if a crosswalk is present nearby.

The Vulnerable Human Body

While the police are responsible to enforce the law as they see it, the broader responsibility of a city leadership is to make sure the legal and physical environment supports the public good.

That entails ensuring that crosswalks are frequent, safe and effective for pedestrians - a serious and ongoing problem in cities like Toronto and especially Hamilton - but also in designing the streets themselves so that they do not punish common, predictable infractions with serious injury and death.

The UN World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention asserts:

The vulnerability of the human body should be a limiting design parameter for the traffic system, and speed management is central.

Likewise, the Ontario Coroner's Report on Pedestrian Deaths recently asserted:

Ontarians not only need to walk, they also need to walk safely. To do so, they need safe walking spaces.

Fast-moving motor vehicles are flatly incompatible with safe walking spaces. The human body is vulnerable, as the UN report reminds us, and the laws of motion are unforgiving.

Repeat after me: the energy of a moving vehicle is proportionate to the square of its speed. A vehicle going twice as fast has four times as much energy, and takes four times the distance to stop.

I have pointed this out so many times that I'm nearly sick of doing it, but it needs to be repeated again and again until it truly shapes our approach to street design. A pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle going 32 km/h has a 5% chance of dying; that chance increases to 50% at 48 km/h and to 85% at 64 km/h.

Inherently Safe Streets

A city street designed for slow-moving automobile traffic is a street designed to be inherently safe. Jaywalking is not some kind of moral failing that warrants punitive enforcement, it is an essential part of the normal functioning of a healthy city.

This is why the Coroner's report recommends a "complete streets" approach with better pedestrian and bicycle facilities and much lower vehicle speed limits.

It's why David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, recently recommended reducing Toronto's speed limits to 30 and 40 km/h. While Toronto Mayor Rob Ford openly mocked him on the radio and called his salary "an embarrassment", he's absolutely correct.

It's why Hamilton's North End Neighbourhood Association is fighting with the city to establish a 30 km/h speed limit in their neighbourhood.

It's why several European cities have already reduced their speed limits to 30 km/h - and are already enjoying significant reductions in pedestrian deaths and injuries as a result.

Enough is enough. It's time to stop making excuses and start putting into practice the understanding that a safe, healthy, welcoming pedestrian environment is more important to the public good than the tiny increments of driver convenience for which we have been sacrificing it.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 15:12:19

I really don't think GTA/Ontario residents realize how far behind the rest of the progressive world we're falling. I remember being in a suburb of Boston years ago and thinking how amazing it was that I could ride a train right downtown for a few bucks, and use my ticket all day on the subway system. NYC is adding bike infrastructure and wider pedestrian areas all over Manhattan. Montreal, Vancouver and Portland continue to work feverishly on the next generation of infrastructure for pedestrians and bikes. DC, Houston, Miami, Cleveland and others are working hard at establishing LRT, walkable neighbourhoods, bike connections to everywhere and vibrant street districts.

Here, we're still sitting on the QEW, or having to shell out $20 to ride the GO Train for 50 minutes with no bike lanes downtown and almost none that connect to anywhere. Lights are still timed on Main and Cannon to encourage speeding and discourage any other mode of transport. And predictably, the economy and vibrancy on those streets is just the same as it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago - dead as a doorknob. The lack of leadership, vision or understanding of what century it is here is really mind-boggling when you do a bit of travel in N. America - add international destinations into the mix and we are completely laughable....except it's not funny.
We're gonna pay for our lack of leadership in a HUGE way over the next couple decades as the boomers retire.

Hamilton might be a shell of its current self if we don't get with the program and attract next generation talent and companies here. And despite the musings of our 'leaders', businesses in the 21st Century don't want to be on Cannon or Main. They want Queen West, Distillery and Locke - bustling, pedestrian-oriented, connected, mixed-use and safe to sit, walk, bike, drive and enjoy.

Sadly in Hamilton that vision of an urban lifestyle is still labeled as 'commie, pinko, activist, war on car' etc..... tell that to Chicago, NY, Seattle, Copenhagen and Brisbane.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-11-02 15:14:06

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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 07:49:33 in reply to Comment 82545

Named for three consecutive years as one of Canada's leaders in attracting and retaining younger employees.

http://www.eluta.ca/young-people-at-corporation-of-the-city-of-mississauga

What does this say about the institutional culture?

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 18:56:37 in reply to Comment 82545

"GO Train for 70 minutes"

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By scared pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 15:46:07

Toronto's voice of reason, Rob Ford's CFRB, reported the terrible injury/death toll a couple days ago with sneering--as in, what are people doing, not paying attention? that kind of thing. Serves me right for listening--it was a station change fail, I think.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 22:29:28 in reply to Comment 82547

The commentary on CBC 99.1 was equivocating at best, dismissive of pedestrian concerns at the worst.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 23:11:47

It will be livestreamed around the world, and yet I can't shake the feeling that it will be tuned out at City Hall.

http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/829972--transforming-cities-transit-cycling-and-walking

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 10:07:51 in reply to Comment 82554

I'm sorry, but this article is a joke. A tipping point?? What, we're finally about to cross into the 70's? Only tipping point we face is losing yet another generation. We're not leading one bit in this area. We're WAY behind.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 09:51:30

Call it the "George of the Jungle" factor. Human beings can achieve roughly 30 km/hr in a sprint, so the human body is designed to withstand an impact at that speed.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 10:03:48

Car drivers kill a lot more people with the lethal poisons in car pollution than car drivers kill by hitting people.

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, reports that in Toronto:

Car drivers poison and kill 440 people every year.
Car drivers poison and injure 1,700 people every year so seriously that they have to be hospitalized.

Children and the elderly are most vulnerable to being poisoned by car drivers. Every year in Toronto:

1,200 children experience acute bronchitis episodes due to being poisoned by car drivers.
Children have 68,000 asthma symptom days due to being poisoned by car drivers.

Source:
http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_pollution_burden.pdf

The only safe dose of the lethal poisons in car pollution is zero, which is why I have zero tolerance of car drivers driving cars in downtown Hamilton - the downtown should be car-free.



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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 06, 2012 at 15:26:54 in reply to Comment 82558

I'm not sure a car free downtown is realistic but I hope that part of your comment is the only reason you are getting downvoted.

This morning biking to the GO station the car exhaust was pretty thick and I could taste the exhaust in my throat and nose by the time I got there. I am not exaggerating. Often the wind direction pushes it out of the roadway but today the wind direction seemed to keep the stench in my face the whole ride. Who cares you may say - certainly, no problem, I understand, it's my problem, not yours. But as one of those being poisoned by motor exhaust, I am deeply frightened of seeing an observation of that issue get downvoted, and am starting to wonder if leaving the GTA is imperative to avoiding an early death at the nice modern Juravinski cancer center. This will change, eventually it will have to, but at the rate this city is progressing it won't be during the prime of my life. I'll be middle aged and halfway through my career before we even get all day GO trains.

Seriously, honestly, the car exhaust is killing people. Let's do our best to work together to continue to promote alternative transportation and reducing the congestion in meaningful ways, perhaps cleaner air and increased safety will accrue to all of us as we move forward. Kicking all the cars out of downtown is a bit unrealistic, maybe banning the current councilors from city hall is more helpful, I don't know but let's keep up the efforts!

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2012-11-06 15:29:06

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 19:59:51 in reply to Comment 82558

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By qwerty (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 13:24:52 in reply to Comment 82558

We should make it people-free. Why take any chances?

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 10:11:56

The theme of this article seems to be impact yet I wonder if the 'doers' in Hamilton actually have one, in fact, I highly recommend the film No Impact Man to everyone.

A year after the end of the experiment, the lights are back on and the family uses the refrigerator and washing machine. But they've also adopted new habits; they're avid bikers, they eat locally produced food and don't have a television.

The book and video are available at the Hamilton Public Library and the documentary may also be rented at Steel City.

So you see my fellow doers we do have a-lot in common: If we wanna affect change in Hamilton we gotta go straight to the bottom. When everyone gives up their cars the streets will become a-lot safer and whether we choose to or not, austerity will push us there sooner than later.

Good Luck with your community action talk next week Wednesday Ryan.

Cheers

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-11-03 11:18:48

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 10:33:55

I live at the corner of Yonge & Harbour and it is a stupid intersection. The lights are timed with the Gardiner offramp for Yonge and the lights at Lakeshore & Yonge (so that all the cars move at once). What makes it even worse is that people use it as an expressway and will go 80km/h through it.

Part of the problem is that the area used to be an industrial wasteland so the roads were configured for maximum vehicle movement - hopefully that changes in the future as the area fills in.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 10:53:43 in reply to Comment 82561

"What makes it even worse is that people use it as an expressway and will go 80km/h through it."

...

"Part of the problem is that the area used to be an industrial wasteland so the roads were configured for maximum vehicle movement - hopefully that changes in the future as the area fills in."

Sounds like almost the entire lower city of Hamilton.

Comment edited by MattM on 2012-11-03 10:54:17

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 20:50:57 in reply to Comment 82562

Here's an example of what the block used to be like (from the Toronto Archives): http://i.imgur.com/JRkW7.jpg?1 The NW corner of Yonge & Harbour is on the left side in the middle. You can see that it also used to be a ramp from Yonge to Bay St & westbound Lakeshore Blvd.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 16:54:20 in reply to Comment 82562

"Sounds like almost the entire lower city of Hamilton."

Hopefully that area fills in.

2001-2011

SHRINKING WARDS
Ward 1 = 1,836 population loss (5.8% decrease)
Ward 2 = 780 population loss (2% decrease)
Ward 3 = 1,779 population loss (4.4% decrease)
Ward 4 = 400 population loss (1% decrease)
Ward 5 = 1,897 population loss (4.8% decrease)
Ward 6 = 1,280 population loss (3.2% decrease)
Ward 10 = 1,024 population loss (4.3% decrease)
Ward 15 = 413 population loss (1.7% decrease)

GROWING WARDS
Ward 7 = 5,845 population growth (10.4% increase)
Ward 8 = 2,298 population growth (4.9% increase)
Ward 9 = 2,630 population growth (10.8% increase)
Ward 11 = 16,051 population growth (78.1% increase)
Ward 12 = 9,823 population growth (38.8% increase)
Ward 13 = 513 population growth (2.1% increase)
Ward 14 = 2,312 population growth (15.1% increase)

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1159 http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1541/

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 21:50:31 in reply to Comment 82565

shocking that people don't want to move their families into neighbourhoods with roaring freeways, skinny sidewalks, timed lights and massive stretches between stoplights.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 10:22:08 in reply to Comment 82570

The mountain is not exactly famous for its complete streets and walkable neighbourhoods.

It remains to be said that in the period (1986-2001), Ward 2 posted a population bump of 2,575 residents (7.2% growth), an average of 172 residents a year. In the last census period, Ward 2 added an average of 32 residents a year.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 20:06:32

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By Common sense (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2012 at 22:27:17

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 21:04:55 in reply to Comment 82571

Cars weigh 2,000lbs and can travel at high speeds - do you really think that all of the onus rests on the pedestrian? Your (flawed) argument is like saying that a person who turns into a car going through a green light isn't at fault because the other driver should've stopped, looked, and listened as they were legally crossing through. I've stopped, looked, and listened many times, but doing that isn't going to help when some guy decides to make a turn without signalling while going 50km/hr or operates under the assumption that "personal responsibility" is for everyone but them or other car drivers

Before I'm called a commie bike-riding pinko, I was born and raised in the suburbs (a real one) and drove a lot of mileage for travel and work, as well as walked around the 'burbs as a kid and an adult, so I have experience from both worlds.

And to end off with a quote from Bloomberg: "The streets are there to transport people," he said. "They're not there necessarily for cars, they're to transport people, and there's lots of different ways of transporting people," he said. "In fact, one of the original ways was walking." (Source: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/po...

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 16:00:37 in reply to Comment 82571

Amen

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 00:01:40

Comprehension is more difficult for some than for others ...

First, "... 11 GTA pedestrians were struck by cars in a 24-hour period ..."

The GTA is a quite large geographic, urban area. So, no, not just one intersection at the bottom of Yonge St. Focusing on one aspect of a theme is using an example. The importance behind an example, generally, is that it is not unique.

Second, "... pedestrians in Toronto often find themselves sacrificial lambs, collateral damage or unintended victims of transportation policies that view them as expendable."

So, you see, if it is a systemic problem of policy--that is a set of conventions, rules, and desired outcomes not including or subordinating pedestrian safety--then your's mother's bromides are probably mostly unhelpful.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 11:47:31

Hamilton has no traffic clue, like toy stores without board games.

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By mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 07:15:12

We can get a handle on the problem if we stop manufacturing cars and steel.That way everybody will be walking,- to the welfare office or the artists grant and handout office. We will all be equal.Now that is a made in Hamilton solution.Art crawl everyday all over the place.How can we lose?

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By see Mon. Tor Star, editorial (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 14:32:23

Hi y'all--This editorial is in the Mon., Nov. 5 Toronto Star--to add to the discussion. BUT, there's little in media discussion about commercial companies "educating" their drivers, or police & others reminding all drivers, to be very vigilant with especially right turns. A victim of such a collision was interviewed on CBC radio one metro morning today but I didn't hear anything about driver vigilance nor enforcement of.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1282140--take-care-to-limit-pedestrian-carnage-on-streets-of-toronto

EXCERPTS
We’re told walking is a healthy activity. But that’s only true if we manage to reach our destination without being run over. And fewer Toronto pedestrians this year are arriving alive.... But what’s especially tragic is that most — if not all —this death and injury could have been avoided if either drivers or pedestrians had paid more attention,...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2012 at 14:44:00 in reply to Comment 82591

That was frankly a painful read. The flagship daily newspaper of the biggest city in Canada needs to do a hell of a lot better than phone in its editorial sentiments with banalities like, "So let’s be careful out there."

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 19:38:59

The Star should have just spared the ink and went with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UsF22ndT...

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2012 at 08:26:42 in reply to Comment 82594

So sad when someone takes a comedy routine as proof of their convictions.

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By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2012 at 08:34:38 in reply to Comment 82639

So sad when someone can't tell the difference between proof and illustration.

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By jed (anonymous) | Posted November 06, 2012 at 08:25:07

I just left Nassau in the Bahamas. Hamilton could take a lesson in pedestrian safety. They have large painted crosswalks throughout the downtown area and very few traffic lights. But more importantly, if you are standing at the crosswalk, all drivers, including buses, taxis and cars stop. And before you reach their stop lights, they are speed humps. Speed is not an issue in their downtown....we also walked from the downtown to another outlying tourist destination that most visitors take public transit or taxis, depending on your budget. I might add that was also a very pleasant experience...their Bay Street, was a t-way, divided 2 lane on each side road. Can not comment on the posted speed limit...but it appeared very safe.

Janice

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 19:10:22

Everyone please be safe. The carnage continues. Toronto is almost a warzone for commuters.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/...

Drive carefully, cycle carefully, look both ways when crossing the street, show consideration and patience for your fellow citizens in public. People, wonderful healthy active people, are getting killed constantly. I want to cry right now but converted that emotion into this comment, for what it's worth.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2012-11-13 19:11:11

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 09:34:03

A 10-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a car Wednesday while playing on the street.

Emergency crews were called to Crockett Street and East 25th Street on the central Mountain at 3:15 p.m.

Police say the child was playing with friends when he was hit by a pick-up truck.

He was taken to hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries.

No charges have been laid. Police are investigating.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/886864--boy-struck-by-car-on-hamilton-mountain


A 72-year-old Hamilton woman remains in serious condition after she was hit by a car Wednesday.
Emergency crews were called to Wentworth Street and Aikman Avenue in the central city around 3:30 p.m.

The woman was struck while crossing from the west to east side of Wentworth Street at Aikman. Police said the vehicle involved was turning from Aikman headed south on Wentworth.

She was taken to Hamilton General Hospital with “very serious injuries,” said Sergeant Andy Dunlop.

The collision reconstruction unit is investigating.

Witnesses of the collision who have not yet spoken to police are asked to call Detective Constable Hendrik Vandercraats at 905-546-4755.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/886821--hamilton-senior-hit-by-car-in-serious-condition

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