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street safety audit

Street safety audit highlights the need to protect Toronto neighbourhoods

A Toronto residents' association has conducted a safety audit of the intersections in their neighbourhood — an idea born out of a decision to turn talking and lived experiences into tangible data.

They found an alarming number of traffic violations committed by motorists.

Last week, the Harbord Village Residents' Association sent a letter to Mayor John Tory and the Toronto City Council with their findings. 

The HVRA gathers members together twice a year to speak about neighbourhood issues and members say that road safety is always something that's coming up.

"We have basically anarchy on our roads," said HVRA board member Andrea Poptsis by phone on Tuesday. 

"This year we decided we would do something different about it, we would just not sit and talk about the problem but we would actually organize ourselves and sit down and try to collect some data," she said "[And] arm ourselves with some information that we could then take to our councillor and City Hall and hopefully press for change."

The association, along with with community volunteers, said they conducted the audit over seven hours at different intersections in Harbord Village.

"In a single hour 192 pedestrians crossed and while they were in the crosswalk, 55 cars failed to stop," reads the report. "In addition, we recorded 54 instances where cars were driving the wrong way on a one-way street."

Volunteers were out recording "events" during peak times, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. They recorded over 6,000 of these events and reported that "45 [per cent] of vehicles did not stop at stop signs."

Poptsis said that, while it's not shocking to anyone from the neighbourhood that drivers drive the wrong way down one-way streets, it is shocking how often they do it.

She said on Tuesday that there were a "shocking" number of instances and of drivers' failure to come to "even a rolling stop" or stop for pedestrians crossing a cross walk. 

"No one doubts the seriousness of the situation. No one doubts the commitment of politicians to keep us safe," the association wrote in its report. 

"But good intentions leave us short. Act immediately to lower the tempers that are now a daily feature of conflict between people trying simply to make their way around the City and to limit the casualties of life in this great City."

Going forward the HVRA is calling on city council to expand current motions that address Vision Zero financing and safety improvements around school safety zones to include neighbourhood streets because "they are the place where children play."

They're also hoping other neighbourhoods will follow suit and conduct safety audits of their own. 

"We're encouraging other neighbourhood residents' associations to use our little toolkit that we put together to do this study and conduct studies of their own," said Poptsis. "And I think that the results will be somewhat similar all across the City of Toronto." 

The letter also asks council to bring their concerns to the police department, who the HVRA hopes will "make obedience to traffic laws a critical priority."

Carolee Orme, a representative from the HVRA, wrote in the findings that a more comprehensive report is coming.

Popstis said that HVRA is going to "go back and study the data a little further," but that the conclusions they've drawn are already sufficiently supported by the findings in the report. 

"We seriously hope that we encourage other communities across the city to take action on themselves," she  said. "And we hope that this issue of road safety for all users — cyclists, motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists — becomes an election issue because we're really tired of seeing our neighbours injured and killed on our roads." 

Lead photo by

Kat Northern Lights Man

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