A preventable death
Jenna Morrison died this week. A mother, wife, cyclist and yoga teacher, Jenna was crushed by a turning truck at Sterling and Dundas, near the entrance of the Toronto West Railpath. There was a strong outcry from cyclists and other Torontonians on Twitter, newspapers and blogs. Most people agree it was preventable, and have suggested a number of ways to have prevented it, including truck side guards, bike lanes, safer intersection. Some have also stressed that Jenna should not have been next to the truck and that she was in the blind spot. That may have also contributed but it doesn't obviate other ways to prevent cyclists from getting into these tough spots or ways to minimize the danger if they do.
The Torontoist details how the fight for side guards on large trucks has been stuck in limbo as MP Olivia Chow has championed them for years. A ten year old coroner's inquest recommended side guards when determining they would help save some lives. But an intransigent federal Ministry of Transportation has figured that “side guards would result in ‘decreased competitiveness for Canadian trucking companies'", thus putting a price on these human beings equal to the cost of the roll out of a relatively inexpensive safety measure.
The Railpath is great. I ride it often to do errands or to relax away from traffic. The worst thing about the Railpath is getting off onto one of the busy streets, including Dundas. On Dundas, from its merging with College to Sterling and on the other side of the railway overpasses, cyclists are presented with blind spots, cars greatly exceeding the speed limit, many crossing streetcar tracks and multiple lanes of traffic. Even if we can avoid turning trucks there are other dangers waiting on this stretch.
I hope that no more people will have to die here, or elsewhere in Toronto, because they've chosen to get around by bike. Truth be told that cycling is still a safe activity; in terms of risk it is comparable to walking and driving. But we still need to work hard to prevent deaths in all these mobility choices and to make it easier for cyclists to choose safe routes. It's important to highlight that motor vehicles are a key factor increasing the danger of all mobility choices. So long as traffic planners and politicians want to prioritize "competitiveness" or "congestion" or the convenience of drivers then not much will improve to make places like this safer.
Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) will hold a memorial bike ride for Jenna Morrison on Monday, November 14, starting at 7:30 a.m. at Bloor and Spadina. The ride will arrive at Dundas and Sterling at 8:00 a.m., after which a ghost bike memorial will be installed.
A trust fund has also been set up for Morrison’s family. TD Bank customers can make a donation using branch number 0246 and account number 637 2358. All others can send donations via their own banks, using the following information: transit number 02462, institution number 004, account number 02466372358. The name associated with the account is Kimberlee White. To donate by phone, call TD EasyLine Banking at 1-866-222-3456.