Death by automobile: “Just Another Year”

Toronto newspapers in their year-end roundups called 2005 “The year of the Gun,” because gun homicides claimed 58 lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

But for pedestrian and cyclist activists, 2005 was “Just Another Year:” 229 people were killed in vehicular crashes. Among those were at least 29 pedestrians and at least four cyclists.

Kevin McGran, transportation reporter for the Toronto Star writes in a January 4 2005 story called “In GTA, car is deadlier than gun” that the Toronto Pedestrian Committee plans to look at intersections where there have been car/pedestrian crashes (over 200 per month, with an average of two or three deaths resulting–and it’s not the drivers who are getting killed), with an eye to safety. “City council has empowered [the pedestrian committee] to come up with a pedestrian plan,” he writes.

Huh. We’re impressed.

Don’t take that the wrong way. We support the pedestrian committee, we really do. We hope the study gets results. We believe that the safety of the most vulnerable of road users, the pedestrian, must come first. With safe conditions for pedestrians will come safer conditions for cyclists, bladers, wheelchair users, and even for people in those little cars you see from time to time. We know it’s a jungle out there, and the “Law of the Jungle” is the only law that really matters at this time.

But we’ve been there before.

In 1998, after an exhaustive study of 11 years of cyclist crashes and fatalities in Toronto, the Toronto Regional Coroner, Dr W.J. Lucas, issued a report complete with 19 recommendations. In particular, recommendation number 12 bears on today’s Lob:

Ontario’s Highway Traffic act presently does little to clarify how bicycles interact with other traffic on our roads. The concept of motorized vehicles yielding to non-motorized vehicles, who in turn must yield to pedestrians seems to be a common sense rule which should be accepted by all road users.

In short, the coroner would have the Law of the Jungle replaced with a form of “Law of the Sea.” This law says “Steam gives way to Sail;” on land it would read “Motor gives way to Muscle” in all questions of right of way.

So, why the sneer? Why the condescension? Why the doubt?

Well, it’s been six years. Six years, and not one of the coroner’s recommendations have been acted on. Recommendation number 12, which arguably could have saved 33 lives last year, sits mouldering in its original report. True, it’s hailed as the “Toronto Coroner’s Rule” by folks who admire it from afar, but up close we’re still ruled by the Law of the Jungle in this city: and the car is king of the beasts.

One Response to “Death by automobile: “Just Another Year””


    [...] they called it. And indeed the destruction was wanton and horrifying. At the same time, however, some observed that death on the roads from car crashes, including a large number of pedestrians and cyclists [...]

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