City launches ‘Vision Zero Challenge’ to encourage residents to work together on road safety ideas

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Twenty-two people have been killed on Toronto roads since the start of the year, prompting the city to launch a competition Tuesday called Vision Zero Challenge to find ways to make city streets safer.

Through the challenge, the city and the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University is calling on transit users, social scientists, designers, academics and activists to find “innovative and data driven” solutions to the pressing problem of road safety.

Coun. Jaye Robinson, who represents Ward 25, Don Valley West, said on Tuesday the city hopes about 80 people who are passionate about road safety get involved in the challenge. That number would mean five to 10 teams of people and the city will help to form the teams if need be.

“We want this to be a safer city,” Robinson, chair of the city’s transportation, public works and infrastructure committee, told CBC Toronto. 

A sign urges drivers to ‘please slow down.’ City officials are hoping that Toronto residents will work together through a newly launched competition to find ways to make city streets safer. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

“We’re very excited about it. It’s a great opportunity to create immediate solutions.”

Robinson said the safety of road users is a main priority for the city, and last year, it developed and approved a Vision Zero five-year road safety plan to focus efforts on reducing traffic-related fatalities and injuries on city streets.

Fifteen pedestrians are among the 22 people who have died in Toronto this year.  

“We’ve actually come up with this idea to work with Ryerson to really generate ideas on how we can tackle this challenge in our city. We are concerned about people that are losing their lives on the streets of Toronto.” 

The eight-week competition will officially be kicked off on May 31 and closes on July 26, the city says on a website announcing the challenge.

‘Traffic collisions aren’t accidents’

“The thing is, traffic collisions aren’t accidents, they are preventable events that can be eliminated through smarter street design, targeted enforcement and thoughtful public engagement,” the city says.

Participants, either in teams or independently, are being asked to answer the question: “How might we use data, design and technology to make all Toronto road users, especially seniors, newcomers and school children, safer immediately, and enable predictive and high priority interventions in the future?”

By entering the challenge, participants will be guided through a design-process, the city says. 

Robinson chairs of the city’s transportation, public works and infrastructure committee. (CBC)

Participants, with the help of resources and supports, will get to test their ideas.

Mentors with expertise in transportation planning, data science and design will be available to answer questions, and there will be digital “office hours” with newcomers, seniors, school safety experts and transportation advocates.

The top five teams, to be selected in August, will be able to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in late September. The two teams with the “most promising” solutions will be announced in September, awarded cash prizes and the opportunity to receive six months of coaching and training to develop their ideas with city staff.

The first prize is $7,000, while the second prize is $3,000.

Through its Vision Zero road safety plan, the city acknowledges that deaths and serious injuries on Toronto roads are preventable.

The plan outlines priorities to ensure Toronto residents, whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, transit users or drivers, can move safely around the city. 

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