avenue road sign

Community push to make Avenue Road safer gains momentum

Last month, Toronto and East York Community Council approved a motion calling for the speed limit to be reduced from 50 to 40 kilometres an hour on Avenue Road between Bloor Street West and St. Clair Avenue West, as well as enhanced police enforcement in the area and the launch of a pilot project, including physical barriers and other traffic-calming measures.

“We need to take action to make it safer for pedestrians, and we need to do it now — and we can,” city councillor Dianne Saxe, who put the motion forward in response to constituents’ concerns, told Post City. “They’ve (the community) been asking all these years, and basically nothing’s happened.”

The plans were subsequently approved at city council, which adopted the item at a meeting this month.

While local residents are optimistic that change is finally afoot, some suggest it’s long overdue.

“We were hoping that there would be some changes done much quicker,” said Arlene Desjardins, acting chair of the Avenue Road Safety Coalition, which, since 2017, has been calling for moves just like the ones proposed at community council in April. “There have been more fatalities along Avenue Road during that time, and more accidents.”

The community activist points to a 2017 City of Toronto report that notes that 85 per cent of motorists were observed traveling above the speed limit on the 2.1-kilometre stretch of Avenue Road. Desjardins sees no reason why this one section of the road has a higher speed limit and two additional lanes compared to the rest of the north-south thoroughfare. “It just makes people think that they’re on a highway and that they can speed,” she explains. Saxe agreed: “It gives cars every signal to go fast.”

Permanent change may be years away, but Saxe suggests the proposed pilot project could bring more immediate relief by adding temporary wooden sidewalk extensions and planters to create a buffer for pedestrians, for instance. “The reason I asked for a pilot project is to start something now,” she explains.

The community council motion was something Saxe says she campaigned on.

“We have more and more people living in this area and trying to get around on very narrow sidewalks,” Saxe, who represents the University-Rosedale community, adds, noting new development is only making the Avenue Road safety issue more pronounced. “We need to narrow the road… so that nobody gets killed — or at least no more people get killed, I should say.” 

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