U of T looks both ways for pedestrians Helene Goderis

The recent spate of deaths on Toronto streets has people thinking about the ways that our car-centric culture interacts with pedestrians and cyclists.

In January, there were 14 pedestrian deaths on Toronto streets. In fact, on Wednesday, February 3 a woman was hit by an unmarked police car just outside of Toronto East General Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with U of T.

One of the heaviest areas for pedestrian traffic in the city is the St. George campus and surrounding environs. Fortunately for U of T students, however, there is safety in numbers.

Narrow streets and the higher number of pedestrians crossing through the university and streaming across roads make fatal collisions around U of T statistically less likely. Most of the recent deaths have been on higher speed arterial roads, especially in suburban areas.

the newspaper Arts editor Miki Sato reported that she had a close encounter of the chrome kind on the paper’s deadline. “Someone was making a right hand turn going soft and then sped up.” This happened to her near Yonge and Sheppard.

Having said this, the U of T Graduate Students Union (GSU) is on record as expressing concerns about pedestrian safety on the St. George campus. Michelle St. Amour of the group’s Sustainability Sub-Committee has identified areas on the university campus where thousands of pedestrians are forced into unsafe crossings daily. As part of the sustainability agenda, GSU has circulated a petition identifying specific sites on the St. George Campus.

One arterial road through the St. George campus is Queen’s Park Crescent. In fact, students have lobbied for almost 40 years to install a crosswalk from Queen’s Park to the walkway in front of Hart House. Traffic calming efforts have helped this situation over the years. It can still be intimidating, however, to dart across three lanes of sometimes heavy traffic at this spot.

On the other side of campus, Spadina represents its own particular problem, with the dedicated street car lines in the middle of the street. On the other hand, 1 Spadina Crescent, home to the newspaper offices, does have a stop light dedicated to a pedestrian crossing, again only after many years of lobbying.

Last week, the City of Toronto engaged in a safety blitz in response to the recent problem of pedestrian-car collisions, especially but not restricted to the fatal incidents. Over 50 violations and several hundred warnings were issued at major intersections, including Yonge, Bay and University, south of Queen.

These efforts, however, were aimed at both pedestrians and motorists, and city officials have publicly called on both pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution on the streets.

Caution might be the watchword, but better facilities for pedestrians, including closing some of the St. George campus off to cars, similar to the way U of T’s other campuses are laid out might, in fact, be a better human scale – not to mention an environmentally sustainable – solution.

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