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Toronto council asks staff to adapt traffic safety plan to target heavy trucks, enhance school zones

A photo from the scene near Bathurst and Ulster streets.
A photo from the scene near Bathurst and Ulster streets. Matthew Bingley / Global News

After opting to enhance standards around its Vision Zero 2.0 program earlier this year, Toronto city council is now asking staff to address issues surrounding heavy trucks and school zone safety.

Vision Zero is the City of Toronto’s road safety plan that focuses on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto streets. It is supposed to address vulnerable users of the transportation system, including cyclists, pedestrians, children, and seniors. In July, council endorsed a reboot of the program to address aspects that weren’t working.

Both motions were passed at City Council unanimously on Thursday.

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A motion put forward by Coun. Jaye Robinson asked staff to present more protections in the Vision Zero plan regarding heavy trucks. Toronto police said as of Sept. 13, of the 23 fatal collisions involving pedestrians, seven involved commercial vehicles.

Robinson’s motion specifically referenced the death of Evangeline “Vanjie” Lauroza on Sept. 10 after she was hit by a cement truck while walking at the intersection of Yonge Street and Erskine Avenue. Robinson said Erskine Avenue has every city bylaw in place regarding road safety, yet there was still a fatality. A September collision involving a passenger of a streetcar and a dump truck was also mentioned.

Her motion asked staff to expand the scope of the Vision Zero plan to include an emphasis on targeting heavy trucks and active construction sites.

READ MORE: Toronto woman killed by cement truck remembered by friends amid community’s call for action

Robinson said her midtown ward has seen the intensification of construction, and with that more trucks.

“People are on edge in that neighbourhood … and they’re demanding action,” she said.

Robinson said the rate of incidents involving heavy trucks has been growing, adding it needs to be properly addressed.

She said recent meetings with industry representatives may have brought up the issue, but she doesn’t believe that message is being relayed to those who can make a difference.

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Robinson said Vision Zero should be looked at as a “living document,” which can be adjusted over time.

“When I reflect back on that document, I think that we missed a major area and that’s trucks,” she said.

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“We’re laying out construction management plans in neighbourhoods to protect residents … I don’t think it’s being communicated down to the truck operators.”

Robinson said she wants to see tactical plans created to tackle the issue within the next three-to-six months, if not sooner.

A second motion passed by council will ask city staff to speed up the implementation of school safety zones across the city. The motion presented by Coun. Jennifer McKelvie said 88 planned school safety zones have been completed. With 750 schools across the city, the motion said it will take years before they cover the city properly.

READ MORE: Mayor Tory pledges crackdown to curb pedestrian, cyclist deaths in Toronto

“Right now it’s painfully slow” said McKelvie, referencing to the five school zones installed in her zone this year and leaving 30 others.

McKelvie said many of the children entering Grade 1 will likely have graduated without seeing a school zone if the program continues at its current pace.

She said she is looking for options to accelerate the installation of school zones at twice the speed. A second portion to her motion looked timing of road construction.

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“This September we had two elementary schools where students went back to school in September and construction services still hadn’t painted the lines on the road with the crosswalk,” McKelvie said, adding it was completely unacceptable and that jobs should be completed before students return from summer break.