Toronto council to vote on safety measures after fatal collision, but residents want more action

·4 min read
Fatima and Valdemar Avila were killed in a car crash on Oct. 12 while they were stopped at a red light on Parkside Drive. (Submitted by Ashley Avila - image credit)
Fatima and Valdemar Avila were killed in a car crash on Oct. 12 while they were stopped at a red light on Parkside Drive. (Submitted by Ashley Avila - image credit)

The day after her parents were killed in a car crash on Parkside Drive, Ashley Avila visited their makeshift memorial and watched as a police officer nearby used speed radar on passing cars.

In 30 minutes, the officer had pulled over six drivers, Avila said.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if something's not done, it will happen again," Avila told CBC Toronto Friday.

"My parents' death was preventable had action been taken earlier. Anything that would have prevented somebody from speeding down that road would have saved their lives."

CBC
CBC

Next week, city councillors will consider a number of safety measures aimed at curbing drivers' speeds and protecting pedestrians on Parkside Drive in direct response to the death of Avila's parents, Fatima, 69 and Valdemar, 71.

The couple was stopped at a red light in their Toyota Matrix in the afternoon of Oct. 12 when a man driving at a high speed crashed into them, causing a chain reaction collision with three other vehicles.

Toronto police said they're still investigating and have not laid charges.

Council to vote on reducing speed limit

The proposed changes in Coun. Gord Perks's motion include reducing the speed limit from 50 to 40 kilometres an hour, adding sidewalks on the stretches of road without them and installing permanent "Watch Your Speed" signs, as well as a traffic signal near a bus stop so pedestrians can cross safely.

In the long term, he's proposing a major redesign that would add bike lanes, but Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park, said this isn't the first time he's tried to change Parkside.

"It's been a few terms of fighting against a mentality that still persists in Toronto," he said. "That it's more important that people can drive through a neighbourhood than it is that the people who live in the neighbourhood are safe."

Lauren Pelley/CBC
Lauren Pelley/CBC

The biggest barrier is that even though houses line one side of the street and the popular High Park is on the other, Parkside is classified as a major four-lane arterial road, said Perks. Therefore, the city and some councillors have been resistant to adding traffic controls. There's also resistance to spending the necessary money for "urgent safety work," he told CBC Toronto.

Avila said she's not an expert and is waiting for police to finish their investigation but thinks Parkside needs to be changed substantially. She suggested cutting down the lanes to one each way so cars stop jumping in and out.

Residents demand more changes

But for Parkside resident Faraz Gholizadeh, the proposed changes don't go far enough.

"[Drivers] don't pay attention to the 50 kilometres per hour. They're not going to pay attention to the 40 kilometres per hour," said Gholizadeh, a member of Safe Parkside and the Sunnyside Community Association. He added that the city is "being dishonest if they think otherwise."

Gholizadeh said he routinely sees drivers pushing 100 kilometres an hour and has documented a dozen collisions in the last couple of years.

Submitted by Faraz Gholizade
Submitted by Faraz Gholizade

In one week, more than 1,000 community members have signed a petition calling for more measures than what's outlined in Perks's motion, including protected bike lanes, widened sidewalks, a pedestrian crossing near The Queensway and a review of the intersection at Parkside Drive and Lake Shore Boulevard.

They were going to present the petition to council in December and are now concerned Perks's motion "that does absolutely nothing to address the issues" has "derailed" their demands, Gholizadeh said.

"I'm worried they're going to pat themselves on the back and say it's a job well done," he said. "But if you ask any resident here, they'll tell you there's no way those initiatives will fix Parkside."

But Perks said he's working within the confines of Toronto's "antiquated" road system. Getting bike lanes, for example, requires at least a year of design work and public consultations. In the meantime, he's proposing installing Green P parking spots on sections of Parkside to reduce the lanes to one, hoping that will help slow down traffic.

"Finally I'm in a position where my colleagues are focused," Perks said.

His motion is seconded by Coun. Jennifer McKelvie, chair of the infrastructure committee and supported by Mayor John Tory.

"Mayor Tory has made it very clear to city staff that he supports any further actions that can be taken to help reduce traffic speed and protect residents on Parkside Drive," said the mayor's spokesperson Don Peat.

Tory supports automated speed enforcement cameras on the road, also in the motion, which transportation staff are working on, Peat said.

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