Sustainable Cities™

Toronto: Road diet for safer traffic

A narrower roadway on St. George Street in Toronto in Canada has made more room for cyclists and pedestrians without impairing conditions for motorists. On the contrary, traffic flows much more easily and is much safer, with fewer accidents, more cyclists and a more open accommodating urban space in the area, which is close to the campus of Toronto University.

St. George Street, venligst udlånt af Brown + Storey Architects.

Putting one of Toronto's main thoroughfares, St George Street on a 'road diet' has been a tremendous success. This involves narrowing three and four-lane roads to two or three lanes, using the extra space for bicycle lanes and wider pavements/sidewalks. The object is to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, to reduce the number of cars, increase safety and to create a more aesthetically pleasing, agreeable urban space.

The budget for reducing St George Street's four lanes to two, widening the pavements/sidewalks and adding trees was $6 million. One positive effect is that the number of traffic accidents has fallen even though the number of cars passing through the area has remained constant. This is to do with the fact that drivers naturally reduce speed on smaller streets, improving traffic flow.

"Nationwide, engineers are putting roads on 'diets', helping them lose lanes and width. In the process formerly 'fat streets often become leaner, safer, and more efficient." - Dan Burden and Peter Lagerwey.

St. George Street, courtesy of Brown Storey Architects.

St George Street was originally a two lane boulevard through an affluent part of Toronto. During the 1940s the street was widened to 4 lanes and the University of Toronto acquired many of the homes along the street. By 1993, 7300 cars were driving down this 1.8 km, 14 m wide stretch of St George between College and Bloor Streets every day. Because of its proximity to the campus, pedestrian and bicycle traffic was also relatively high.

The rehabilitation of St George Street has meant that it can more efficiently handle the same daily amount of traffic as before, and even more during the rush hour. The street also has room for 10% more bicycles, 1600 other than 1500 a day previously. The roadways of four other streets in Toronto have been narrowed and given bicycle lanes, with the result that the number of cyclists has increased by 23% while motor traffic has remained the same.

"The St George Street project open people's eyes to the opportunities to enhance open spaces elsewhere on the campus. It helped to spread the new way of thinking about living and learning on the campus to the entire University of Toronto community and led to a broad awareness of the importance of campus open spaces and their ability to improve quality of life," - University of Toronto.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014