Crash victims, advocates call for more ambitious road safety plan

The City of Ottawa's transportation committee has backed a new road safety strategy that aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 20 per cent over the next four years, but some people hurt in collisions say that doesn't go nearly far enough.

The most significant element of the strategy will see new and rebuilt roads in residential areas specifically designed for speed limits of 30 km/h. Other measures include banning right turns at some red lights and enhancing "high visibility" crosswalk markings in 10 locations.

The committee also voted for Coun. Shawn Menard's motion to adopt a goal of zero fatalities by 2030.

The city is spending $4 million in 2020 on road safety initiatives. After next year, they'll be funded by revenue from enforcement, such as red light cameras and photo radar, but the city doesn't know how much that will be. 

Not far enough for some

For the eight public delegations who gave presentations to the committee, the city isn't going far enough in its efforts to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

They gave real — and in some cases, devastating — examples of what can happen when roads aren't designed with pedestrian and cycling safety in mind.

Travis Croken was cycling downtown when he was hit by a car more than six years ago, leaving him with permanent brain damage and walking with a cane.

"Too often I hear things from developers or from planners saying, 'This cycling concept is not ideal, but it's what we can work with,'" Croken told councillors through a video presentation.

"This is something that needs to be taken seriously. This is something that needs to be changed. We need to improve cycling infrastructure in this city."

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Carleton University student Ward Verschaeve was struck while cycling near the campus in October, breaking his hand. 

"Since then, crossing streets has been quite horrifying for me," Verschaeve told the committee. "I'm always really terrified that a car will be turning right without properly looking."

Painted cycling lanes don't go far enough, he said, calling instead for segregated ones.

"There 's a difference between safe cycling infrastructure and cycling infrastructure."

Orléans activist Miranda Gray reminded the committee about Siman Khouri's death this summer. The 13-year-old boy was cycling home along Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard when he was struck by a vehicle near the Highway 174 on-ramp. 

"In this case, the young gentleman did not make it home," Gray said. "His two fellow friends did, but we could have had three dead children just as easily as one. And that's because we don't have a vision for designing safe streets that looks at streets we already have and puts in the money we need. Please dream big for all these people who have been injured on our roads."

Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff pointed out that $650,000 is earmarked in the 2020 budget for improvements to that particular intersection, but Gray said there are many others that also need improvement.

A number of councillors agreed that the city is not being ambitious enough when it comes to reducing tragic collisions, but some said the current plan is a step in the right direction — and realistic, considering council is looking to increase property taxes by three per cent.

The road safety plan will go to city council for final approval on Dec. 11.