Yonge Street is Toronto’s most well-known thoroughfare. With some of the city’s busiest intersections, it serves hundreds of thousands of pedestrians and vehicles each day. And like most major streets in big cities, it lacks barriers to divide them from one another.
The vehicular attack Monday on a two-kilometer stretch of Yonge Street, which killed 10 people and injured at least 15 others, exposed the vulnerability of these crowded thoroughfares. When a van repeatedly mounted the sidewalk, plowing through pedestrians as it did on Monday, there was nothing standing in its way strong enough to impede it. Only after approximately 25 minutes did the van come to a stop; its driver was soon arrested. The suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was charged Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
In recent years, this style of attack has become increasingly common around the world. In 2014, Canada suffered one similar to Monday’s, when a car struck two members of the Canadian armed forces in Quebec, killing one of them. Vehicular attacks have also occurred in other cities, including Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Nice, and Stockholm. And while the motive of the attack in Toronto is still unclear, it prompted a familiar question: Can these kinds of incidents be prevented at all?