North York overlooked for senior safety zones?

Last year, four out of five pedestrian fatalities in the area were seniors


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James Pasternak standing at Bathurst and Sheppard Avenue West intersection

The City of Toronto has promised immediate changes following a deadly year of road violence — with seniors making up the majority of 43 pedestrian fatalities. But some areas may have been overlooked as the new safety measures start to roll out this month.

As part of Vision Zero, Toronto’s road safety plan, the city has created 12 senior safety zones at various intersections to heighten awareness for road users. Dozens of other measures, such as longer crosswalk times and lower speed limits, were also introduced in January.

However, there was a lack of senior safety zones set up in North York, an area where four out of the five fatalities in 2016 were seniors.

The only zone is located at Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue West. 

Lena Kasimova has been working at the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario in that neighbourhood for 20 years. She said there are many seniors in the area, and she often hears of them getting seriously injured or killed while walking on the street.

Most recently, an 87-year-old woman was fatally hit by a vehicle on Dec. 6. Kasimova said it was painful for the community. 

There were three pedestrian fatalities around the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area as well, but no senior safety zones have been put into place at those locations.

“It is disconcerting,” Ward 10 councillor James Pasternak said. “We appreciate being on part of the original 12 pilot intersections (at Bathurst and Steeles), but we really have to look at Bathurst and Finch and Bathurst and Sheppard. We have one of the highest concentrations of seniors in the city, and they’re at risk for vehicle accidents when crossing streets.” 

The senior safety zones were based on detailed analysis of pedestrian deaths and injuries across the city, according to City of Toronto Transportation Services director Myles Currie.

He said he added a layer of demographic information, where seniors live and commute, to the data to figure out where each location should be. 

The zones are meant to remind “people to drive and act more cautiously, reduce their speed, be more aware of the environment and drive carefully,” Currie said. The fact that there are fewer senior safety zones in North York might be a “good thing,” Currie said.“Not that we don’t have fatalities or serious injuries in North York … [but] there hasn’t been as many deaths or serious injuries involving seniors.”

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