Advertisement

City of Ottawa aims to cut fatal, serious collisions by 20% with new plan

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and transportation committee chair Coun. Stephen Blais outline the city's new five-year action plan on road safety at a downtown intersection on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and transportation committee chair Coun. Stephen Blais outline the city's new five-year action plan on road safety at a downtown intersection on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

As part of a new action plan on road safety announced on Monday, the City of Ottawa is aiming to reduce the average rate of fatal collisions and accidents causing serious injuries each year by 20 per cent by 2024 – and has earmarked more cash for that purpose.

Officials are proposing to bump the city’s investment in road safety next year to $31.5 million – up from $25 million in 2019.

City staff also say they’ve applied a “made in Ottawa” approach to the new plan – which guides the city’s road safety projects and spending over a five-year period – and are specifically looking to improve safety at intersections, on rural roads, and for “high-risk” drivers and vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Ottawa marks 1M population milestone, unveils new slogan
Ottawa marks 1M population milestone, unveils new slogan

Mayor Jim Watson and transportation committee chair Coun. Stephen Blais outlined the new blueprint – the city’s third such plan – at a downtown Ottawa intersection late Monday morning.

Story continues below advertisement

If the 2020 funding is approved, it would represent “the single largest investment in road safety in the city’s history,” according to the mayor.

Road safety has been top of mind again in Ottawa this year after a number of fatal incidents, including a hit-and-run on Laurier Avenue that fatally injured a cyclist in May and a collision in July that fatally injured 3-year-old boy riding his bike in Orléans.

READ MORE: Area of Laurier where cyclist killed getting safety upgrades, City of Ottawa says

The city’s two previous road safety plans spanned 2003-2011 and 2012-2016. Over the course of the last five-year plan, the city achieved a 14 per cent decrease in fatal and major injury collision, exceeding its original goal of 10 per cent, according to Phil Landry, the municipality’s director of traffic services.

In 2018, 27 people died in collisions on Ottawa’s roads, according to the city’s last safety report. Of those, eleven were drivers, four were vehicle passengers, three were motorcyclists, eight were pedestrians and one was a cyclist.

READ MORE: 1 dead after serious collision in Ottawa’s west end

With the extra funding proposed, Landry expressed optimism on Monday that the city can again reach and maybe surpass its 20 per cent target over the next five years.

“We’re on the right track,” Landry told reporters.

Phil Landry is the City of Ottawa’s director of traffic services.
Phil Landry is the City of Ottawa’s director of traffic services. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Some, however, believe the city should be setting a higher goal. Coun. Catherine McKenney, who has been a vocal advocate for Vision Zero on city council, called the 20 per cent objective “disappointing” on social media.

Story continues below advertisement

Vision Zero is a road safety program that aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s.

Another downtown-area councillor, Shawn Menard, also questioned whether the city should have “a more ambitious target” in a tweet posted on Monday.

At the announcement downtown, a reporter asked Blais how closely the new road safety action plan aligns with the Vision Zero idea.

“Vision Zero is based on a safe systems approach that asks that all users of the road – the riders, the makers of cars, everyone involved in transportation – take some responsibility for the safety of our streets, and that’s exactly what our road safety action plan is calling for,” Blais said.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Ottawa police respond to 3 separate collisions, charge 1 driver Monday morning

A news release on Monday’s announcement notes that the plan “aims to continue progress towards zero fatalities and major injuries on our roadways.”

“The plan also recognizes that road safety requires a change in culture to achieve the long-term vision and goals of the [plan],” the release said.

Blais said the objectives of the road safety plan will be reviewed annually beginning in 2021.

New road safety plan data-driven, officials say

The proposed five-year plan has been based on local traffic and collision data, according to officials.

Specifically on improving safety for pedestrians, the new plan will increase funding to install pedestrian signals where warranted and the city will review 300 locations next year as it looks to implement more advanced walk signals that give pedestrians a head start before motorists get a green light, Blais said.

READ MORE: Ottawa police investigating after pedestrian struck and killed by bus in Elmvale

City officials held the announcement at the intersection of Bay Street and Gladstone Avenue downtown, saying the location is an example of a crossing where a traffic light and pedestrian signals are needed.

While he hadn’t yet seen the details of the new road safety plan, nearby resident Mark Davidson said he was pleased to hear the city is investing more money,  both city-wide and at that particular intersection – which he thinks is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists.

Story continues below advertisement
“The sight lines are terrible [for drivers],” he said. “It’s probably the most dangerous intersection I walk every day.”
Centretown resident Mark Davidson describes the sight lines at the intersection of Gladstone Avenue and Bay Street a "terrible," saying cars like this one have to roll over the pedestrian crossing to see oncoming traffic.
Centretown resident Mark Davidson describes the sight lines at the intersection of Gladstone Avenue and Bay Street a "terrible," saying cars like this one have to roll over the pedestrian crossing to see oncoming traffic. Beatrice Britneff / Global News
Centretown resident Mark Davidson said the intersection at Gladstone Avenue and Bay Street in downtown Ottawa is "probably the most dangerous intersection I walk every day."
Centretown resident Mark Davidson said the intersection at Gladstone Avenue and Bay Street in downtown Ottawa is "probably the most dangerous intersection I walk every day." Beatrice Britneff / Global News

On improving safety for cyclists, Landry said the city will study 10 intersections “to look at some low-cost solutions to improve cycling” and will change how it designs and constructs cycling paths on arterial roads.

“It used to be we’d build bike lanes next to the road. Moving forward, we’re going to be building cycle tracks so that cyclists aren’t next to traffic – they’re separate,” he said.

Downtown Toronto street to close for pedestrian safety
Downtown Toronto street to close for pedestrian safety

Watson said a number of community groups worked with city staff on the new plan and the city also took into account feedback from more than 3,000 people who responded to an online survey about road safety.

“We think our plan is solid. It’s had a lot of community input from users of the roads and the sidewalks,” the mayor said on Monday.

READ MORE: NCC will clear more downtown Ottawa bike lanes as part of winter cycling pilot

The proposed $31.5 million investment for road safety next year is part of the city’s 2020 draft budget. The refreshed road safety plan and proposed funding will go to the transportation committee and Ottawa city council for consideration and approval in December.

Blais said that money collected from the city’s upcoming photo radar program will help fund the action plan “on an ongoing basis,” in addition to revenue from red-light cameras installed after 2020.

Story continues below advertisement