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A small improvement on Parkside Dr. a year after the couple died in the crash

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Grief and anger will dominate a special memorial service near High Park on Sunday.

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The event is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at Parkside Dr. and Spring Rd., we are marking the first anniversary of the deaths of Valdemar Avila, 71, and his wife, Fatima, 69, who were killed in a horrific car accident at that intersection.

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They are survived by a daughter, Ashley Avila, and two grandchildren.

The anger felt by residents over the fatal crash, which they believe was entirely avoidable, was covered by the Toronto Sun when it happened. Collisions are common at Parkside, and people who live nearby have been pushing for change for years.

Safe Parkside is a group of residents formed six months before Avila’s fatal crash. Despite their efforts, it was only after the Avilas were killed that the speed limit on the street was finally reduced to 40 km/h.

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Valdemar, 71, and Fatima Avila, 69
Valdemar, 71, and Fatima Avila, 69 Photo supplied photo /Toronto Sun

Even now, a traffic camera on Parkside shows daily that the area is a hotspot for speeders.

In a recent interview, Faraz Gholizadeh, a spokesperson for Safe Parkside, described residents’ frustration with what they see as unnecessary delays in the change to Parkside Dr.

“It’s a miracle there weren’t more dead on the street,” he said.

Gholizadeh compares Parkside Dr. to Woodbine Ave., “both are extremely dangerous four-lane wide, fast, straight highways that are lined with single-family homes and feed from Lakeshore and out.”

But he ed that Mary-Margaret McMahon, as City Councilor for Beaches-East York from 2010-2018, completely transformed Woodbine into a much quieter and safer street with dedicated bike lanes.

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Toronto Councilor Gord Perks is pictured at City Hall after a budget meeting on January 10, 2020.
Toronto Councilor Gord Perks is pictured at City Hall after a budget meeting on January 10, 2020. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun

High Park residents want Councilor Gord Perks to do the same for Parkside.

Gholizadeh directs his anger at Perks, whom he accuses of ignoring residents’ complaints.

“II took the death of two innocent people and a community literally marching down the street demanding action to really change anything, even something as simple and reasonable as lowering the speed limit,” Gholizadeh said.

Forget the speed camera. People are wise to it now, said Gholizadeh, who lives nearby and watches people slow down to avoid a ticket and then speed up again.

“Speeding continues. That’s the problem, and until it’s solved, riding Parkside will continue to be a roll of the dice.”

The Parkside Dr. Debacle is an important issue in Ward 4 in the Oct. 24 election.

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On Thursday, October 20, 2022, one year after Valdemar and Fatima Avila were killed in a horrific crash, Parkside Dr.  markings, flowers, speed cameras, it's all visible, yet motorists continue to ignore the posted speed limit of 40km/h.
On Thursday, October 20, 2022, one year after Valdemar and Fatima Avila were killed in a horrific crash, Parkside Dr. markings, flowers, speed cameras, it’s all visible, yet motorists continue to ignore the posted speed limit of 40km/h. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Perks’ closest competition appears to be Siri Agrell, who has experience in urban affairs; she previously worked for former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

The area is full of signs for Agrell and for community activist Chemi Lhamo.

For his part, Perks said a lot has been accomplished to make the street safer: full-time parking on the east side that slows northbound traffic, a new traffic light coming to Geoffrey St., lowering the speed limit, a speed camera, another traffic light south of lights on Spring and the “Complete Streets” transformation plan in Parkside approved by the city council.

“We’ve made tremendous improvements over the years, and more are to come,” Perks said.

The only change that would make an immediate difference, according to Safe Parkside, is bike lanes.

“The street will become one lane in each direction with turn lanes. It would be a thing to make that change,” Gholizadeh said.

The bike lanes built into the “Complete Streets” plan, he ed, will be produced for 10 years while everyone waits for street reconstruction.

Let Parkside Dr. whatever he does, it will be too little, too late for the Avila family.

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