Vision Zero is about saving lives, not assigning blame

I've told you before that I drive – a lot. When I’m not working, I'm driving my grandsons around to basketball practice. After an evening of driving them, I reflected on the Vision Zero and Cycling Network Plan scheduled for discussion in Council this week.

Vision Zero answers the call of many, many residents with plans to make gradual speed limit reductions across Toronto over the next two years, along with measures to make intersections safer for pedestrians.

The Cycling Network Plan will connect a number of existing bike lanes and off-road trails, add a few routes and study major routes that have been requested for decades.

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A typical evening

I left City Hall at 4 PM on Monday and drove through the East End to pick up my grandson. Along the way I counted cyclists and asked myself: could I share this stretch of the Danforth with cyclists? The answer was simple – I already do, and I'm managing just fine. Installing cycling infrastructure there would make it safer for both drivers and cyclists.

After picking up Tristan, we headed to Scarborough, where his teammate lives.

As I drove up Birchmount Avenue and then McCowan Road, I wondered: would I be okay if these roads had their speeds reduced to 50 km/h after tomorrow's Vision Zero vote? The answer was yes, because I realized it was 5 PM and at that time it's impossible to go faster, anyway.

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I picked up another teammate in York Region and managed to get everyone to practice at Francis Libermann High School by 6 PM. That’s a lot of ground covered in the middle of rush hour.

The evening wasn’t over, though. I then travelled west to the North York Civic Centre for a community meeting on the Sidewalk Labs proposal. The meeting had already started, but traffic required me to drive at about 50 km/h. I still got there, learned a lot, and then repeated the whole journey in reverse – picking up the boys, taking them home and getting to bed by 10:30 PM.

It's possible

The point I’m trying to make here is that Vision Zero is possible. If we gradually implement these changes over the next few years, we will manage – and most importantly, fewer pedestrians will be injured.

Speed kills in a variety of ways, and not just because a fast car hitting a human has the power to kill. Speed changes the way drivers make decisions; for example, you're at a full stop about to turn left. The faster oncoming traffic is going, the more you focus on those cars as you decide when to turn.

When you step on the gas and try to beat the traffic, you may miss that, while you were focusing on those cars, a pedestrian entered the roadway. Often, that is how pedestrians die.

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I've spoken about Vision Zero many times – but this Tuesday, the importance of achieving its goals hit very close to home.

Just before I was scheduled to speak about the Vision Zero report in Council, I received news that a pedestrian in her 60s passed away after being hit by a truck at Don Mills and Cliffwood.

The tragedy of this coincidence is not lost on me. I have heard residents' concerns about this area since long before I became their Councillor last December. That's why I asked that the Don Mills and Steeles area be the City's first priority as Vision Zero is rolled out.

This is not about assigning blame – this is about saving lives. Let's bring on Vision Zero, now.

On a happier note:

The new seniors' fitness park at Godstone Park had its grand opening recently and was featured on City News! The project is the result of a Participatory Budgeting process where local residents voted to build exercise equipment to encourage seniors to be healthy and active.

I'd like to give a special shout-out to Shirley Kehimkar who worked tirelessly on this project and is a true Participatory Budgeting Champion. Congratulations, Don Valley North! It's so rewarding seeing another successful PB project being enjoyed by our community.

Ani Dergalstanian