By: Patrick Brown and Taraneh Etemadi, Summer Student
Pedestrians and cyclists make up an increasingly large number of the travelling population in the busy city of Toronto.
According to statistics gathered by the Toronto police, the year 2016 reflected the largest number of pedestrian deaths in more than a decade, with 43 pedestrians and 1 cyclist being killed by traffic violence. Kasia Briegmann-Samson’s husband, Tom Samson, was killed in 2012 while cycling at Davenport Rd. and Landsdowne Ave., she stated, “These are not numbers, these are lives and for each individual killed, there are scores of family members and friends who are also shattered.”
In July 2016, Toronto City council agreed to endorse Toronto’s road-safety strategy with an increased budget of $80.3 million over five years to protect cyclists and pedestrians from traffic violence. Some of the added protective measures included doubling the number of mid-block pedestrian crossings and quadruple the number of new audible crossing signals to 20 intersections per year.
A new advocacy group has been introduced by Kasia Briegmann-Samson, David Stark whose wife, Erika Stark was struck and killed on a sidewalk, and Yu Li, whose friend, Zhiyong Kang was killed by a drunk driver while cycling on Finch Avenue. This group is called Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS). FFSS seeks to eliminate violent driving behaviour through advocating for changes in the law that support safe streets for all road users, including cyclists. FFSS was first launched on October 25, 2016. The organization indicates that Toronto’s renewed road safety plan of 2016 is a step towards reducing serious injuries and deaths on streets; however, it is not enough. FFSS members have challenged the City to reduce speed limits on roads outside of the downtown core, enact increased fines and sentences for violent drivers who kill or injure vulnerable road users, and to avoid placing the blame on victims for wearing dark clothing or crossing in the middle of a street. All drivers should be vigilant and responsible for other road users that share the streets.
Members of the FFSS consist of individuals who have been injured or affected by a family, friend or loved one who has been killed or seriously injured as a result of a violent traffic incident. As a result, FFSS provides a peer support group service for people that are directly affected and help them in the process of coping with such complex situations. Support group meetings take place on the third Sunday of each month from 2:00pm-4:00pm for adults over the age of 18. You can find a schedule of the upcoming FFSS support group meetings here.
Members are actively working with city officials, legislators, city planners, police, transit authorities, active transportation advocates, public health professionals, and the travelling public in an effort to end traffic violence and work towards safer and more accessible Toronto streets. The traffic culture in Toronto must be revamped to consider the safety of all road users and it must be understood that fatalities and injuries can and should be prevented.
You can contact the FFSS Support Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-642-9395. Don’t forget to follow FFSS on Facebook and Twitter at @ffsafestreets to stay updated on all of the events and meetings that are held.
FFSS’ first vigil in remembrance of those who were injured or killed by road violence will be held at Nathan Phillips Square on June 27, 2017 at 6:00pm. All are welcome.