traffic safety

Woman nearly hit in Toronto intersection highlights need for safer streets

A near miss in a Toronto intersection reinforces the need for better road safety in the city, and perfectly demonstrates why a former resident doesn't miss the city.

While filming for his YouTube channel, Not Just Bikes, a site about urban planning and mobility, Jason Slaughter witnessed a near-miss between an elderly woman walking in a crosswalk and a left-turning vehicle that enters the wrong lane at Pape Avenue and at Harcourt Avenue.

"Ironically, I was filming because I had been hit by a car at this crossing, and I wanted footage of it for a future video about road safety," Slaughter tells blogTO.

Slaughter wasn't seriously injured in the accident in 2014. The car hit him in the knees, left him with bad bruising and some difficulty walking for about a week.

"I was very lucky that the driver had his window open and heard me scream at him to stop, or it would have been much worse," he says. "After hitting me, he took off without getting out of his car, or seeing if I was OK."

After living in Toronto off and on from 2000 to 2018, Slaughter left for The Netherlands where he discovered interesting cities that are much safer.

"It's like night and day," Slaughter says. "The street and road design in the Netherlands is the safest in the world for pedestrians and cyclists, and that safe infrastructure is everywhere, throughout the entire country."

He says road safety is taken very seriously in Holland, especially for vulnerable road users.

"And when a serious crash happens, the road design is changed almost immediately at that location."

In 2016, Toronto announced Vision Zero, a plan to eliminate all traffic-related deaths but pedestrians and cyclists continue to be killed in the city and the change is slow to happen. The plan was to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2021.

There have been 23 traffic-related fatalities and 112 serious injuries so far in 2021 (Aug. 5), according to City of Toronto data. Sadly, a cyclist was killed on Aug. 18 on Avenue Road — the first of cyclist fatality of 2021. 

"Toronto claims to support 'Vision Zero', but the city is defaulting to 'education' and 'enforcement' for road safety, which are proven to be ineffective, and are literally the exact opposite of what Vision Zero (and the Dutch equivalent, Sustainable Safety) are about," Slaughter says.

"Road safety comes from safe road design. Period. You can't make the roads safe by just hoping drivers will follow the rules and victim blaming the pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars."

The intersection at Pape and Harcourt, for example, would have several design features to prevent collisions. The crossing would be raised to sidewalk level (like a big speed bump), there would only be one lane of traffic to cross, and there would be a pedestrian island in the middle of the street, he says.

"Design elements like these make most pedestrian injuries physically impossible, as the road design would prevent drivers from driving quickly or out of their lane at a pedestrian crossing."

Slaughter’s YouTube channel, Not Just Bikes explores what makes a city great including things like population, density, walkability and interesting things to explore.

He grew up in London, Ontario and thought he would like living in bigger cities but found many elements make a city great.

"Why did I like downtown and yet I hated the suburbs?" he asks in his first video on Not Just Bikes.

Toronto needs to take traffic safety more seriously, he says. Organizations like Friends and Families for Safe Streets and Cycle Toronto need more support to make this happen.

"There is a massive untapped demand for walking, cycling, and public transit in Toronto that could make the city a much better place to live."

Lead photo by

Not Just Bikes Screen Shot

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