Traffic is an ongoing issue for the city. Residents call their local city councillors to complain about cars speeding through the neighbourhood or the volume of cars on local roads. Many communities have reconfigured streets, added day and time restrictions that prohibit the use of local roads or have installed physical barriers to help keep pedestrians safer.
While I was a councillor, Avenue Road between Eglinton and the 401 was a sincere source of complaints. Cars and trucks would exit off the 401 and continue at high speeds south into the city. Along the way, traffic would exceed speed limits and pass neighbourhood stores, schools and residential houses.
Early in my tenure, a cyclist was killed on Avenue Road by a truck. Toward the end of my term, two teachers from Allenby Public School were struck by a vehicle during broad daylight, and just a few years ago, there were two serious collisions on that stretch of Avenue in a 40-minute period. As a result of these tragedies, the makeup of Avenue Road north of Eglinton underwent changes including turning restrictions, road markings and an electronic speed sign in front of Allenby school helped to slow traffic.
Now there is a local community organization that is trying to do the same on Avenue Road between St. Clair and Bloor. The community group has named itself the Avenue Road Safety Coalition and represents residents, cyclists and parent councils.
According to a traffic study that was conducted before the pandemic, the 2.1-kilometre stretch of Avenue Road carries 30,000 vehicles per day, and 85 per cent of drivers exceed the 50 km/h speed limit. Compounding the problem is that the sidewalks are less than two metres wide.
Following a period of inactivity, recently the coalition set to work again. There was a Safety Awareness Day to highlight the need for improved infrastructure and reduced speeds. The action plan includes widening sidewalks and reducing speeds to 40 km/h.
City councillors Josh Matlow and Mike Layton are bringing a motion to city council to explore reducing the speed limit and creating more pedestrian space through barriers.
The community group was strategic in the timing of the Safety Awareness Day. The city has gone to great lengths during the pandemic to repurpose roads for multiple uses. The bike lane network has expanded significantly.
The only stretch of Avenue Road that hasn’t been altered is the part the Avenue Road Safety Coalition is representing. When Avenue turns into Queen’s Park Crescent south of Bloor, a network of dedicated cycling routes has been introduced. Similarly, University Avenue south of College also has dedicated bike lanes and turn restrictions. These alterations have slowed traffic.
It would be devastating if the city didn’t take this opportunity to be proactive but instead had to respond to the types of tragedies that occurred on Avenue Road north of Eglinton.