A collaborative approach to transforming traffic safety

By Connor Simonds, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

In a groundbreaking move to reshape the way we approach road safety, Markham and York Region are teaming up to create a comprehensive Traveller Safety Plan (TSP).

The latest developments were unveiled at the Development Services Committee meeting in July, where an exciting vision for safer streets took centre stage.

The meeting’s theme emphasized the importance of a paradigm shift. Loy Cheah, presenter from the Development Services Committee started his presentation by stating that the ‘Traditional approach to addressing road safety, such as traffic calming and speed display boards are reactive in nature and not sustainable in improving our road safety.” However, this collaboration recognizes the need for a proactive approach to prevent accidents altogether. The focus is not just on reducing accidents but on minimizing their severity by transforming system-wide practices and policies.

Imagine a road system where everyone, from drivers to pedestrians and cyclists, can navigate safely. This is the essence of the “Safe System” approach being championed. It takes into account all road users, with a special focus on protecting the most vulnerable: pedestrians and cyclists. Markham has already taken steps towards this by conducting a comprehensive city-wide road safety audit in 2020, providing the foundation for what is now known as the Traveller Safety Plan.

Markham’s journey towards safer streets began in earnest in March 2019 when a proposal to develop a Road Safety Plan was presented to the city council. This was followed by a city-wide road safety audit in September 2020, a significant milestone. In 2021, the city council allocated a 2022 budget for a multi-year road safety plan. But a twist of fate occurred in January 2022 when Markham learned of York Region’s plans to develop a Traveller Safety Plan, mirroring Markham’s own efforts.

One of the standout messages from the meeting was that road users don’t distinguish between regional and local jurisdictions when travelling. The message and vision for road safety need to be consistent across the board. Recognizing this, regional and city staff are embracing collaboration, acknowledging the shared goals, objectives, and methodologies in their road safety endeavours.

York Region initiated a move towards collaboration in early 2022, engaging the City of Markham and other local municipalities to develop a region-wide Traveller Safety Plan. This plan, grounded in Vision Zero (Safe System) principles, takes into account the requirements of both regional and local roads. Importantly, it will result in a plan adaptable to Markham’s unique needs and allow the city to develop its own Road Safety Capital Program. The plan’s development kicked off in October 2022 and is anticipated to reach completion before the end of this year.

The collaboration between Markham and York Region brings several advantages to the table. It leverages the technological capabilities of the region, ensures consistent messaging, maintains Markham’s autonomy in decision-making, and utilizes the 2022 budget to align with the TSP’s objectives.

The meeting also shed light on the impact of Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE). This system involves the use of technology to enforce speed limits and improve road safety. ASE has already shown its effectiveness, with three mobile cameras deployed on regional roads covering nine community safety zones, including 17 school areas. The goal is to have 60 cameras in operation by 2027, addressing aggressive driving as a top priority.

The presentation didn’t stop at ASE; it also delved into intersection safety measures. These measures have already proven their worth in reducing collisions and conflicts involving pedestrians and cyclists.

Markham’s current traffic safety strategy covers a broad spectrum of initiatives, addressing education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation. These efforts range from speed display boards to school crossing guards and educational outreach.

As the meeting concluded, it became clear that exciting times were ahead. The roadmap includes securing council’s endorsement of the Traveller Safety Plan by the end of 2023, revising Markham’s traffic calming policy, and developing a multi-year capital program aligned with the TSP’s recommendations. Public and internal consultations will be integral, ensuring that the collective vision for safer streets is well-informed and responsive.

In a world where collaboration is often the key to success, Markham and York Region are demonstrating how working together can revolutionize road safety. The Traveller Safety Plan, Automated Speed Enforcement, and a comprehensive approach to intersection safety are paving the way for safer streets. With a shared vision these two entities are driving change and creating a roadmap to a safer, more sustainable future for all road users.

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