Far too many individuals are killed or seriously injured when using public infrastructure. Most roadways are designed to maximize traffic efficiency and do very little to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Many well-intended road safety initiatives have been attempted in the past, but the heavy lifting needed to make our public infrastructure safe for all has yet to be implemented. Experience from other jurisdictions demonstrates that the pursuit of safe streets is not a fool’s errand.
Vision Zero is a transportation planning approach that fundamentally re-imagines road safety with the ultimate objective of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on roadways. Other jurisdictions in Europe and North America have demonstrated that when leaders apply a Vision Zero approach to their roadways such deaths and injuries can be dramatically reduced.
While municipalities such as Toronto, London, Kingston, Peel Region, and Durham Region have Vision Zero plans, a provincial strategy is needed. There are certain elements of Vision Zero that can only be delivered by the province such as necessary changes to the Highway Traffic Act.
The Ministry of Transportation recently announced they would be moving forward with a 2+1 highway pilot in Northern Ontario on Highway 11. Such a road design is based on Vision Zero principles. The province can build on such an initiative by expanding this approach to the rest of the province.
Beyond the road safety benefits provided by Vision Zero, there is also a number of social benefits to be gained. Eliminating crashes reduces the burden on the already-stretched healthcare system and the untenable liability that municipalities face because of joint and several liability. The best lawsuit is one that never happens.
Recommendation: Good Roads recommends the Ontario government develop a provincial Vision Zero strategy by December 31, 2022. We also encourage the Minister of Transportation to create a Task Force to advise on the development of the strategy.