Toronto councillors representing Scarborough approved installation of a traffic light after hearing an impassioned plea from the mother of a teenage boy killed on the busy road in September.
Alfred Remisiar read a letter Tuesday to Scarborough community council from his friend Sweety Kumar, mother of Samuel Dan Kumar, 17, who died Sept. 23 when a driver struck him as he crossed Scarborough Golf Club Road near Confederation Drive.
“I heard it all happen and I ran out to my son on the road,” her letter stated. “It was a memory I will never forget and I will pray it is something no other parent, friend or neighbour has to experience.
“Since 2014 community members have been trying to get a crosswalk at the intersection but the city has been ignoring our request for years.
“The city’s not going to ignore us any longer and I hope the death of my son was not for nothing, and it will at least serve some justice in my community. All we ask is for a safe pedestrian crosswalk. This is my humble and grief-stricken request for my community.”
Remisiar then addressed the six councillors himself, noting that over the years community members have made multiple pleas for a crosswalk or light at the intersection, which is near a school and a mosque, but city staff said the site didn’t meet criteria for either.
“When the community is screaming their voice out and saying ‘Hey, we’re in a danger zone, we need something to be installed for our children to be safe crossing to get to school, to get to library, to get to wherever they need … Why don’t they have the privilege to cross a road when the car community has access onto these roads at high speed. Why is it not looked at that pedestrians have all the rights as a commuter as a vehicle?
“It shouldn’t cost a 17-year-old boy’s life to pass a motion to have a crosswalk. That boy had dreams, that boy had ambitions. He was a knowledgable student. He was an amazing boy. He didn’t know that was his last day. He told his parents to have dinner ready and he went across” the street to meet friends. “He never came back. The mom heard him cry and die on that spot. You can all imagine how that scene would be if you are a parent — hearing your son be crushed on the road.”
After hearing similar pleas from other community members, the councillors unanimously approved a motion from Councillor Paul Ainslie, who represents the area where Kumar was killed, for installation of a signalized intersection. The closest traffic light currently is almost 200 metres away.
Ainslie (Ward 24 Scarborough-Guildwood) expressed frustration over the city’s traffic warrants system, where councillors ask city staff to study an area and a feasibility study ensues that often produces a recommendation of no change. He was waiting for study results when Kumar died.
Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, who represents Ward 25 Scarborough—Rouge Park, told colleagues she hopes that city’s revamped Vision Zero plan to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities will help streamline the approval process so councillors don’t have to use ad hoc motions.
The committee later approved city-staff-recommended reductions of speed limits on a host of Scarborough streets by 10 km/h as part of Vision Zero. But the committee rejected an attempt by Ainslie to reduce other residential streets in his ward to 30 km/h. That failed on a 3-3 tie.
A move by Councillor Jim Karygiannis to reduce the limit on all local roads in his Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt to 30 km/h — following the lead of councillors in the Toronto-East York community council — was defeated in a 4-2 vote.
Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest) voted against both proposals, saying a patchwork of speed limits could confuse drivers and make the roads more dangerous. Councillors should stick with staff-recommended changes in the usual process, he said.
Councillor Cynthia Lai (Ward 23 Scarborough North) told colleagues she believes in Vision Zero but many of her constituents do not believe speed is a contributing factor to traffic fatalities in the area. Researchers, however, say even small reductions in vehicle speeds dramatically increase a struck pedestrian’s chances of survival.
Her constituents “think it’s just a symbolic gesture (to lower speed limits) if no enforcement is going to be taking place,” Lai said, adding she believes that speed reductions will lessen fatalities but “I have to educate my constituents … because I represent them as their voice on council.”
Source: The Toronto Star