Toronto testing speed bumps to slow down left-turning drivers at busy intersections

Toronto testing speed bumps to slow down left-turning drivers at busy intersections-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
The city will test using speed bumps to reduce the speeds of drivers making left-hand turns in at least seven busy intersections. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Toronto introduced a left-turn calming pilot on Thursday as part of the city’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan to eliminate traffic-related injuries and deaths.

Toronto’s speed cameras issued more than 53,000 tickets in just under 5 months

As part of the pilot, rubber speed bumps will be installed at intersections throughout the city to prevent left-turn driver collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. These types of collisions are among the most prominent that cause injury and death to other road users in Toronto, the city said in a news release.

Speed bumps will be installed to encourage drivers to take a slower and sharper left turn when driving across crosswalks, rather than wide, diagonal turns. The idea is that it will provide drivers better visibility of pedestrians and cyclists while also reducing turning speeds.

The first of these speed bumps have already been installed. The city said that speed bumps were added to two intersections in July, one at Sheppard Avenue and Kennedy Road and another at Finch Avenue and Sandhurst Circle.

The same treatments will be installed at six other intersections by the end of August. Locations for the pilot will be decided based on the history and severity of previous collisions, as well as findings of previous safety reviews.

Coun Cynthia Lai-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Coun. Cynthia Lai said she has heard repeated calls from constituents for measrues to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists at intersections, especially in the suburbs. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

Coun. Cynthia Lai, who represents Scarborough North, where the first of the speed bumps were installed, said the pilot is an initiative that she believes will make Toronto roads safer, especially in suburbs.

“I’ve had many requests in my ward for speed bumps and traffic calming initiatives,” she said. “I think we need to see more of these initiatives in suburban areas because people tend to speed and tend not to be so careful.”

Because many of her constituents don’t speak English as their first language, she said she’d also like to see the city do more to educate and communicate the purpose behind these initiatives. A spokesperson for the city says it is in the process of translating education material on Vision Zero into other languages.

Step in the right direction, advocate says

The pilot is a step in the right direction to improving cyclist and pedestrian safety, said Kevin Rupasinghe, campaigns manager with Cycle Toronto, a group that advocates for safe cycling in the city. He said that busy streets with a lot of foot traffic should be prioritized for left-turn calming pilots.

Cycle Toronto-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Kevin Rupasinghe, campaigns manager with Cycle Toronto, said he’d like to see left-turning calming measurs installed throughout the city. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

“There’s plenty of times where I have wished that there were measures to keep drivers turning slower and better able to see me,” he said.

“And I’m really confident that we’ll see those results with this type of measure—it just has to be rolled out at a lot more intersections.”

In a press release, Mayor John Tory said he is looking forward to seeing the results of the pilot and “if this measure should be expanded to other locations across the city.” The city also said in a separate statement that more details about the pilot will be announced in coming weeks.

With more people walking and cycling outdoors during the pandemic, Rupasinghe said, he’d also like to see the city do more to protect cyclists in addition to the left-turn calming pilot. Cycle Toronto, for example, is campaigning for a network of protected bike lanes across Scarborough.

Positive results seen elsewhere

Similar left-turn calming measures are already in place in other cities.

In New York City, a pilot has been running since 2016. It was an engineering solution that came out of a study analyzing why pedestrians were being hit by drivers, said Rob Viola, director of safety policy and research at New York City’s Department of Transportation.

New York-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Similar left-turn calming treatments were installed in New York City. (Submitted by Rob Viola)

The city has reported that injuries among pedestrians decreased by 20 per cent at locations where turn calming treatments were employed. Similarly, the speed of left turns decreased by an average of 52.6 per cent.

“It has been a big success and has caught on in a lot of cities across North America,” said Viola.

“It’s pretty cheap, easy and the results are strong, so anything like that in transportation is going to get picked up.”

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