Walking across the city, it’s not hard to see how many of Toronto’s streets are unfriendly and sometimes dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. The outcome of these poor street designs is deadly. A Toronto Public Health report found that pedestrians account for 52% of all fatalities and 11% of all injuries from collisions with motor vehicles in Toronto despite having a mode share of only 8.6%.1 2
It’s always appalling to look back on the data from previous years, and it is also saddening when a single event is reported in the news or on social media. But there used to be nothing to fill the gap between the churn of the news cycle and the governmental tabulation and publication many months later.
The Toronto Police also focus on ‘Killed and Severely Injured’ (KSI) individuals, and do not tally other incidents. Yet the difference between no / minor / severe injury and death is a very fine line. We’re also defining injury as physical harm, and not giving weight to the psychological injures that can occur. This lack of reporting does not give us a full sense of the magnitude of the problem.
That is why I started #struckTO. It was originally a database of reported collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists, regardless of the outcome. The aim was to visually convey the magnitude of the problem, provide key statistics, and bridge the gap between the news cycle and formal reports. #struckTO was a tool to get the latest information on road violence in Toronto in 2018.
The fatal flaw was that it relied upon collisions reported through social media. This reporting is never complete, and would vary depending on other incidents across the city, and whether someone was staffed for social media engagement. As 2018 progressed, it became clear that this reporting was an unreliable data source, and between this and other factors, I have decided to focus #struckTO on fatalities only.
Below are a map of pedestrians / cyclists struck and killed between 2007 and 2018, and some tables of key statistics.*
This graph shows the cumulative rate of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities per capita between 2007 and 2018, based on the data used for the map above.
Toronto’s Vision Zero efforts have been ineffective, or lacking completely, and this has translated into the city bucking national trends. Other major Canadian cities, and the Canada-wide average, have been trending downwards in terms of pedestrian and cyclist deaths per capita, while Toronto has been trending upwards. Toronto is now the worst city in Canada for pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
Pedestrian and cyclist deaths in the US have been increasing, and Toronto has yet to match the per capita rates nationwide, or in other cities such as Los Angeles. However, New York has started a Vision Zero program that has seen their deaths per capita trend downwards. It’s so effective that in 2015, New York fell below the US national average. Meanwhile, Toronto’s upward trend means that it surpassed New York’s pedestrian and cyclist deaths per capita. This is continuing so far in 2018.
Between 2008 and 2012, 67% of pedestrians had the right of way when they were struck by a vehicle.3 As for the remaining 33%, a portion may be due to a lack of infrastructure (crossings to give them the right of way). The statistics are not an argument against cars; they are an argument for building safer streets, which is in everyone’s interest.
Also remember that these are numbers; each 1 is a living person injured or killed walking or biking in Toronto. This has far-reaching implications beyond the victim; it impacts the victim’s friends and family members, it impacts the vehicular driver involved, it causes lost productivity in the economy, and it costs our health care system. Overall, it contributes to a decline in Toronto’s livability.
* Pedestrian/cyclist fatality data from 2017 and previous is via the Toronto Police Service’s Killed and Severely Injured open dataset. Pedestrian/cyclist fatalities in 2018 are via press releases from the Toronto Police Service. Data for other cities is via respective municipal sources and supplemented by accountable media sources. Canada-wide data is via Transport Canada. US national data is via federal government sources.
a Where 2018 fatalities occur on the border of a ward and/or a community council area, the fatality is divided between them (i.e. 0.5 for each ward/area on the border between 2 areas, 0.33 for each ward/area on the border between 3 areas, 0.25 for each ward/area on the border between 4 areas). This may create rounding errors.
b Population for city-wide per-capita rates is based off of Statistics Canada 2016 and 2011 census population for City of Toronto. Population for community council area per-capita rates is based off of 2016 population counts provided courtesy of the City of Toronto. Populations for 2017 and 2018 are estimated by calculating growth rate between 2011 and 2016, and projecting linearly.
1 Toronto Public Health (2012). Road to health: improving walking and
cycling in Toronto. Available at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/hl/bgrd/backgroundfile-46520.pdf
2 Spurr, Ben, and Cole, Matthew. Share of Torontonians taking public transit is on the rise, while reliance on cars declines. Toronto Star. Published November 29, 2017. Available at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/hl/bgrd/backgroundfile-46520.pdf
3 Toronto Public Health (2015). Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety in Toronto. Available at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2015/hl/bgrd/backgroundfile-81601.pdf