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E-BLAST: School's Back! Keeping Our Streets Safe

The first week of September always feels like back to school, no matter how old you get. Here at the City, back to school means putting out reminders and continuing our work to make our roads as safe as possible for residents of all ages.



Back to school always increases vehicle traffic and the number of people walking and cycling, particularly in our school zones. It's why moms and dads always start the year by teaching their kids of all ages to be mindful of their surroundings. Today, I want to remind us adults to do the same. It's time to stay alert, obey the rules, and share the road to ensure everyone's safety as the days get shorter and our travel happens with less and less light.


I also want to give you an update on the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan work that is underway. We have made a lot of progress on this plan even though the work had to be stretched out over a longer period of time due to our ongoing budget constraints. It includes lots of action to protect road users taking every mode of transport, including:


AUTOMATED SPEED ENFORCEMENT (ASE)


The City’s 75 mobile speed cameras continue to rotate through Community Safety Zones and issue tickets to vehicles travelling in excess of the speed limit. Here in Don Valley North, they're currently stationed at:


  • Shaughnessy Boulevard near Rochelle Crescent

  • Don Mills Road south of Seneca Hill Drive

  • Freshmeadow Drive west of Applegate Crescent

You can find a map showing all current and future ASE camera locations here:

It's important to remember that the locations of the cameras rotate every three to six months. The goal is to remind drivers to travel the speed limit in that critical area, and then move to a new Community Safety Zone to do the same. Warning signs are posted 90 days before ticketing begins at any new ASE location, so be sure to check the map and, of course, keep an eye on your speed no matter where you're travelling.


THE SCHOOL CROSSING GUARDS PROGRAM 


School crossing guards are placed at 851 intersections across the city, reminding drivers and cyclists of the presence of pedestrians at key intersections. These crossing guards not only help keep our school kids and other pedestrians safe—they can become beloved neighbourhood figures and help build a sense of community around our schools. We've been able to increase the number of crossing guards across the city by transferring this service out of police management and over to City staff.



SCHOOL SAFETY ZONES


The City has installed 413 School Safety Zones around Toronto and aims to complete 80 more by year’s end. We have dozens of installations already completed in Don Valley North. School Safety Zones include safety signs, pavement markings, and driver feedback signs. These are quick and affordable installations, but they yield big changes in driver behaviour around our schools to help keep kids, parents, and teachers safe.


PEDESTRIAN HEAD START SIGNALS


Close to 1,200 intersections across the city are equipped with a Pedestrian Head Start Signal, allowing pedestrians to begin crossing the street before vehicles are permitted to proceed. This delay gives pedestrians the increased visibility they need while requiring cars and bicycles to pause and take note of those pedestrians’ intentions. Another 50 signals are planned to receive this safety treatment before the end of 2023.


IN-ROAD FLEXIBLE SPEED SIGNS


The City continues to install In-Road Flexible Speed Signs in high-priority areas, including in School Safety Zones. You may have seen a few around Don Valley North. These signs are installed in the middle of the road and serve as both a visual reminder of the posted speed limit and a physical device to slow down vehicles. Recently, my team worked with the Henry Farm Community Interest Association (HFCIA) to have one installed to curb speeding on Havenbrook Boulevard.



SPEED LIMIT REDUCTIONS


You may have seen my reminder about this at the bottom of the E-Blast a couple weeks ago. A few years back, the City began reducing speed limits on major and arterial roads across Toronto, as well as on local roads downtown. Currently, we're working to reduce the speed limit on local roads in Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough to 30 km/h on a systematic, ward-by-ward basis. The local speed limit has already been reduced in six wards, with work continuing in the remaining 11 wards. Don Valley North was scheduled to have this work start next year.


Of all the measures outlined above, this is the one I believe is the most impactful. My office gets calls from every corner of Don Valley North asking us to get people to slow down on local roads, whether they're in a car, on a bike, or riding an e-scooter. I think it is easy to forget what speed we should be travelling in our neighbourhoods because our community is designed such that we spend a lot of time on high seed roads on the way back to our own neighbourhood. 


Given the level of concern around speeding in our neighbourhoods, Councillor Robinson and I moved a motion at North York Community Council today asking staff if they can find affordable ways to move up the installation of new speed limits in our wards. Don Valley North and Don Valley West were last on the list of an already delayed program. While we understand the challenges, we have seen what a difference this consistent approach to speeds makes in reducing dangerous and sometimes fatal incidents.



Together, all of these measures help us adjust our behaviour and keep our roads safer for all road users. Of course, in terms of changed behaviour, nothing beats a good old fashioned speeding ticket from a police officer. With an emphasis on enforcement, education, and community engagement, the Toronto Police Service started conducting a Back-to-School Traffic Campaign this week, looking out for drivers who choose to speed or drive distracted, impaired, or aggressively. Members of the Toronto Police Service will also be stationed in School Safety Zones, targeting vehicles parked illegally. Consider yourself warned. 


With fall in the air and students back at school, we want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible on our roads. Feel free to forward this E-Blast along to anyone who might benefit from a quick refresher on the measures we're taking to keep folks safe. And, if you have kids back at school this week, take a look at the City’s Safety Guide for School Children and Parents. It includes important information and advice on walking, cycling, wheeling, driving or taking the bus to and from school: 

The first couple of weeks back to school tend to be the busiest and you might notice some traffic jams or other issues around your home or school. If any of these continue into October, be sure to talk to the school's principal or get in touch with our office so we can investigate further. By working together and staying alert, we can make sure everyone feels safe on our local streets.

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