Part 1: Evolving Traffic Safety
For most of us, it’s hard to remember a time when we all rode around without seatbelts with half a dozen kids in the back of the station wagon. If you look at in-vehicle fatalities from the seventies and before, the numbers are startling — especially when you factor in the smaller population at the time. Since then, we have done much to make our vehicles and our streets safer for drivers and their passengers. On the vehicle side, we’ve added lap belts, air bags, anti-locks brakes, traction control, centre-rear brake lights and collision avoidance systems. With road design, we have added break-away poles, reduced road-side obstructions, widened lanes, improved intersection angles, added barriers with crumple zones, funneled traffic onto high-capacity multi-lane roads and more.
The impact of these changes has been undeniable. Population adjusted, in-vehicle fatality and injury rates have been halved since 1975 and mileage adjusted rates have fallen even further. All of these improvements have come at a cost though. Making our streets safer (and more convenient) for vehicles has made them more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The only improvements have come from the unfortunate fact that walking and cycling rates have dropped since the 1970s.
Vehicles and streets are safer for car occupants today. Our streets still require more work for pedestrians.
Engineering Safer Streets
We achieve safer streets with the three E’s — education, enforcement and engineering (road design). Education is only the first step. On the enforcement front, we have hired more officers, reduced speed limits and introduced school-zone automated speed enforcement. Even with these efforts, engineering, or road design, is an important part of the mix. Of course, major road changes are expensive. So, we’ve started with the most economical improvements we can make to enhance safety on many streets. Simple features like centre and edge lines, speed cushions, marked crosswalks and interactive speed signs have been mainstays of this work.
Safer streets are also more livable. People identify their favourite streets in a community as being those with places for walking, cycling and recreation. Favourite streets also have slower speeds and fewer lanes. While we will always need streets, people really do like when we have a better balance between people and cars — even when people consider the slightly increased travel times this can create for drivers.
Part 2: The Credit Woodlands
Anyone who knows The Credit Woodlands at all, knows that traffic safety and volume is an issue. In addition to the many neighbourhood residents the street serves, people use the route to travel between Dundas and Burnhamthorpe. When door-knocking, one resident after another has raised concerns about the traffic on the street — something we have heard repeated with calls and emails to 311 and our offices. Because of recent work we have done, there has been a focus on the ring road, but safety is an issue the entire length of the street. More measures are needed from one end to the other.