Dozens of demonstrators pretended to be dead in front of city hall Monday evening, hoping it would send the mayor and city council members a message.
The demonstration protested the number of cycling and pedestrian deaths and injuries in the city and pushed for better road protection for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
The die-in was held just before city council is expected to vote on Tuesday on the future re-vamp of a stretch of Yonge Street in North York. The street hasn’t been upgraded since 1975.
“Far too many people have been killed on our streets; children and elderly, and as a result, we are setting record numbers which we shouldn’t be,” said Patrick Brown, the head of Bike Law Canada and committee organizer for Friends and Families for Safe Streets. “It’s about time we change things.”
Brown said real steps need to be taken to bring a real Vision Zero — to have no fatalities on city streets, ensure pedestrians and cyclists are safe, and have roads constructed in a way to make that happen.
“We need to reduce speed limits, and introduce vulnerable road use laws,” Brown said. “We need to ensure we refer to these as crashes and not accidents.” Brown said.
Adam Hotchin, 48, an IT worker and cyclist who commutes to work on his bike all-year round, says the state of pedestrian and vulnerable road user safety in the city is “shocking.” He has been riding for more than 20 years.
“Better education is key. We need to teach new drivers that cyclists and pedestrians have a right to be on the road and that they are not speed bumps,” Hotchin said. “There should be meaningful penalties when a vulnerable user is hurt or killed.”
When asked about what penalties be put in place he suggested a meaningful loss of licence and suspension of the privilege to drive.
James Macfarlane, 51, is another cyclist who has been riding for over 25 years. He also commutes to work all-year round and says someone is endangering his life every day. Some of it is due to bad driver behaviour and due to bad street design he said. He adds the deaths in this city are needless and no one seems to pay attention to it.
Macfarlane wants the timing of lights to change so that cars and pedestrians are not in conflict and bike lanes that are fully separated from traffic.
“Bike lanes have become a spot of convenience for anyone who wants to park,” Macfarlane said. “Every time drivers park in a bike lane, it endangers a cyclist.”
This is the city’s second die-in and was organized by Toronto advocacy group Friends and Families for Safe Streets.