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June 19, 2014

Dedicated streetcar lane decreases pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions by almost 50 per cent, SickKids study says

TORONTO – Previous research had shown that both pedestrians and drivers are at risk when streetcars and motor vehicles share the same traffic lanes, but little was known about the impact of dedicated right-of-way streetcar lanes on pedestrian safety.

Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) examined the rates of pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions, and location of the collisions before and after the installation of a dedicated streetcar lane on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto. They found a 48 per cent decrease in the rate of these collisions after the dedicated streetcar lane was installed. The study, published in the June 18 online edition of Accident Analysis & Prevention, also showed that the collisions were less concentrated within the same ‘hot spots’, and more dispersed across the route.  

“Our findings suggest that dedicated streetcar lanes may be safer for pedestrians compared to a mixed traffic streetcar route and should be considered by city planners,” says Dr. Andrew Howard, principal investigator of the study, and Senior Scientist in Child Health Evaluative Sciences at SickKids.  

Researchers collected collision data from police-reported pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions in the City of Toronto from 2000-2011. A total of 23,607 pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions occurred on Toronto roadways during this time, with 441 on St Clair Avenue. This study focused on the route from Weston Road to Yonge Street.

Construction to convert St. Clair Avenue West from a mixed traffic streetcar route to one with a dedicated streetcar lane began in 2005 and was completed in 2010. The redesign resulted in two centre lanes for streetcar-use only on a raised track physically separated from other traffic with platform stops on either side.

The study not only found an overall reduction in pedestrian collisions post-construction, but particularly at major intersections, for example Bathurst and St. Clair, and Dufferin and St. Clair. “Some explanations for this could be better separation of pedestrians from motor vehicle traffic. The barriers along the platforms force pedestrians to cross the street at the light, rather than jaywalk from the middle of the street,” says Howard. “The new design also prevents cars from going straight through St. Clair or turning left from streets where there is no signalized intersection, thereby reducing pedestrian motor-vehicle contact.”

In the mixed traffic model, the curbside transit stops require passengers to embark and disembark in front of traffic along the route where there are not always lights or other traffic signals.

“The goals of the St. Clair redesign were to improve transit reliability and efficiency, and our research demonstrates positive impacts on pedestrian safety as well,” Howard adds, who is also Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery & Health Policy, Management & Evaluation at the University of Toronto.  

This research was supported by SickKids Foundation.

About The Hospital for Sick Children

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

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For more information, please contact:

Caitlin McNamee-Lamb
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654, ext. 201436
caitlin.mcnamee-lamb@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654 ext. 202058
suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca