Pedestrians walking in low-income neighbourhoods are more likely to get injured or killed in traffic, according to a new CBC report, which found that more than half of the collisions in Toronto that resulted in serious injuries or death occur in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.
The report, released Monday, corroborated findings from the Hospital for Sick Children, which detailed how children in Ontario’s low-income areas were at higher risk of getting hit by cars than children in more affluent neighbourhoods.
The problem lies in what Dr. Linda Rothman, the lead author of the Hospital for Sick Kids report, described as inequitable road design in different areas of the province. Residents who can’t afford to live in the downtown core are being pushed into suburban areas where the roads are built for car traffic.
About a week ago, a four year old child was hit by a motorcyclist while walking with his mother on Victoria Park Avenue near Adair Road. That part of the street features four lanes with no traffic light or crosswalks. The child is currently at the hospital in serious condition.
At Victoria Park Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East, a few blocks from where the child was hit, at least six pedestrians were hit and killed by cars in a three-year period. The area has a median household income that ranks in the bottom 20% in Toronto.
Census data from 2016 showed that in low-income areas, collisions involving pedestrians were more likely to happen mid-block.
“This is concerning," said Councillor James Pasternak, who is leading Vision Zero, a project introduced in 2016 to increase road safety in Toronto.
“The question is: are they living on main boulevards where the distance between lights is long and there's a propensity to jaywalk?”
Since Vision Zero officially launched in 2017, the city has installed more safety zones and “traffic calming” strategies in areas that have seen a high rate of accidents.
But because residents in more affluent communities typically have more time to advocate for better roads than residents in low-income neighbourhoods, they end up with more pedestrian-friendly streets.
When the city or traffic advocacy groups organize consultation events that welcome community members, attendance tends to be low in poorer areas.
“The city needs to be actively looking for places where it can make improvements, as opposed to waiting for local people to get in touch with the councillor and start the process,” said Dylan Reid, a spokesperson for pedestrian advocacy group Walk Toronto.