A preventable death

All photos by Tino

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.

Banner along Railpath

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.

Dundas at Sterling, looking North

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.


Thanks for this. Great post.

I live in the area, and pass that intersection frequently. I've been trying to work out in my head how this collision might have happened. The only thing I can think of is that the truck overtook Jenna as they were both proceeding south on Sterling, and then shouldered her over as it turned onto Dundas. The only other possibility is that she somehow undertook the truck on the right while it was stopped, and was then pulled under as it proceeded to turn. Of course, I was not a witness to this tragedy, but to me, the second possibility seems much less likely.

Probably could have been avoided with a lowered curb into the dundas rail trail and some HEAVY concrete bollards to prevent trucks from cutting that corner.

I dunno how many people here use that intersection, but it's a hassle and unsafe. Particularly when trying to head East. Why it's uncontrolled with a major bicycle "artery" emptying out there is beyond me. The road is full of potholes there also.

Poor design and poor driving on behalf of the truck driver.

RIP Jenna.

How does a cyclist prevent a truck from pulling along side while they wait for a light to change or traffic to clear before proceeding. It should be illegal to overtake ANY vehicle including a bike and then execute a turn in front of them whether it is at an intersection or a driveway. Can you imagine if the car from the lane to your left passed you and turned right in front of you!
My condolences to Jenna's family and friends.

I can very well imagine that Claire! It's called the right hook, it is violation of the HTA, at it is the most common cause(if i recall from the study) of cyclist accident ahead of dooring in Toronto.

This is such a sad tragedy. I pray for healing for the family and for roads to be created better for bikers. I hope that they community will help the family through all of this now and the future.

Clair asked:

"How does a cyclist prevent a truck from pulling along side while they wait for a light to change..."

Kevin's answer:

There is a way to prevent this dangerous driver behaviour. That is to exerciise our legal right to take the lane, exercise proper lane control and prevent dangerous motor vehicle driver behaviour.

Cyclists have these legal rights for very good reasons. Let's exercise them so that less of us will be dead.

Kevin Love

With all due respect Kevin I have repeatedly experienced motorists pulling up on my left and making right hand turns around me despite my being centred in the curbmost through lane. Likewise I've been hit from behind. I've also had motorists pull up on my right to proceed straight through when I've positioned on the left side of the right lane.
Granted taking the lane reduces conflicts with rational motor vehicle operators but the psychotic 10% remains pushing their conceptual privilege to bully and intimidate human powered traffic.


The psychotic 10% is why we have police to arrest them for things like "Assault with a Weapon," "Dangerous Driving" or "Criminal Negligence."

The psychotic 10% is also highly susceptible to being controlled by proper Dutch-style protected cycle infrastructure. Concrete really doesn't care about their mental health issues...

Awesome looking website. I recently built mine and I was looking for some ideas for my site and you gave me a few. May I ask you whether you developed the website by youself?

We need to change our laws to make it fundamentally illegal for any motor vehicle to collide with any other vehicle, pedestrian or structure. In this way, the driver would be automatically guilty in the event of a collision, regardless of circumstance; think of it like the game 'Operation', but for drivers.

How much safer would our roads be if every driver acted conscientiously and proactively?
It would no longer be acceptable to claim a defensive position via a lack of awareness or ignorance.

Drivers ought to expect and anticipate the factors that lead to an accident, as well as the contributing behaviours of the other party. Consider that a pedestrian is hit by a car in the GTA roughly every six (6) hours! Don't we all know someone that has been struck or even killed by a car?

No more excuses - because at some point there needs to be a greater accountability placed on the party that poses the greater threat on the road. Until that changes we are bound to the very avoidable loss of life that happens every day.

Seymore, I suppose you are stirring the pot. I seriously don't see your proposal working, even if the legislation was enthusiastically passed and enforced.

One could substitute "bicyclists" for "drivers" and "bicycle" for "motor vehicle" and the whole thing would not, in my opinion, be all that much sillier.

In particular, this sentence works beautifully:

Bicyclists ought to expect and anticipate the factors that lead to an accident, as well as the contributing behaviours of the other party.

So if we make bicycling accidents fundamentally illegal, we solve all our problems....

Why does some cyclists always come by and say be a better cyclist or you should be more defensive... don't they realize that by holding such an attitude they're showing inexperience and revealing they're just a lucky person who hasn't had their card come up.


No, I'm not "stirring the pot". But I do hope that people can get their heads around the thinking, that someone operating a motor vehicle be ultimately responsible for their actions, as opposed to the current limited liability that can be diminished altogether.

I am suggesting that drivers be required to see the person about to cross the street, or anticipate that another car is about to run a stop sign, or that children might be playing in the upcoming driveway.

This isn't a new concept. Holland has ‘Strict Liability’ law, which holds a driver fully responsible for a collision with a cyclist, unless the driver can prove that the cyclist hit them while they were stopped; I am simply taking that concept and expanding it.

I don't think it is silly to ask for greater liability for drivers, but on the other hand it is silly to suggest that a bicycle and a motor vehicle be interchangeable in the manner you suggest, since one poses a far greater threat to people's safety.

Good news!!

Ontario already has has a "Reverse Onus" strict liability law. Here it is, from Section 193 of the Highway Traffic Act:

"When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle."



So if you get hit by a motor vehicle, sue the driver. The driver has to PROVE that he was not negligent or you win.

Good point Kevin, but does 'Reverse Onus' hold the driver liable in the event of any collision?

All too often Police are not in a position to lay charges in a collision.

I think it is reasonable to place the following immediate conditions on a driver who collides with another vehicle, pedestrian or structure:
- Minimum 72 hour license suspension
- Minimum, mandatory fine of $500
- Automatic charge of careless driving (which has the added impact of increased insurance rates)
* Additional charges would apply accordingly

Besides the obvious physical protection a driver has, the law also affords them too much protection in the form of limited liability - that's what really needs to change.

I am all for:

  1. Dealing with aggresive drivers (like the ones who chase cyclists onto the sidewalk)
  2. Penalizing those drivers who know better but don't give a shit (I don't need to stop for that stop sign, I can turn left/right cutting others off because I Have An Important Life, etc)
  3. Making sure drivers don't drift into bad habits by periodic retesting

However, just like most bicyclists haven't had their unlucky card come up, most drivers haven't either. And the most conscientious and careful driver can have a momentary lapse or misinterpret a confusing situation. 99% of the time this doesn't lead to a collision, but 1% of the time it does.

This is just being human. What you are proposing is that being human is illegal.

The only way this would work, I think, is if we didn't allow people to drive cars at all. Get rid of them, and the lapses that everyone has will no longer happen at the wheel of a motor vehicle, and the potential bad outcomes of those lapses are nullified.

By the way, I am not sure that the Netherland's "Strict liability" law is quite what people seem to think it is. However, the truth would be buried somewhere in Dutch law. For what it's worth, the English guide to driving regulations put out by the Dutch government doesn't mention strict liability. Although there are some interesting regulations for bicycles.

The strict liability law in the Netherlands is indeed not quite as simple as it seems. The Road Traffic Act recognizes the inherent inequality between stronger (larger, motorized) and weaker (non-motorized) vehicles. The principle is that the stronger road user (car) is 100% liable unless there are other circumstances involved:

-accident not within the driver's control (driver committed no error, or committed an error but it was not relevant to the accident); the other road user's error was so implausible that the driver need not have taken it into account

-damage to the driver's own vehicle caused by bike, etc., is driver's own fault unless the driver is proven not to have been at fault

-where a pedestrian or cyclist involved is not older than 13, the driver is always 100% liable (to allow for the impulsivity and unpredictability of kids); for pedestrians or cyclists who are older, the driver may claim that the collision is attributable to the pedestrian's or cyclist's behaviour in traffic as a result of intent or 'recklessness approximating intent' and that the cyclist or pedestrian is entirely or partially at fault.

Case in point:


Dead pedestrian = $2,000 fine.

Justice has not been served.

I have just returned from a trip in Chicago, cycling for 5 days. The state of Illinois has had 3 foot rule for passing a cyclist since 2007. Clearly marked bike lanes and bike routes that actually went where you needed to go, diamond lanes (without cabs!), drivers giving you room when they pass you, shared lanes where cars yield to cyclists, and lots of cyclists on the road all contributed to a saner ride.

Speaking to bike shops they say they still have problems with the door prizes. It could be related to the position of the bike lanes. (Cars park at the curb and the bike lanes are beside the parked cars - other cities do this differently).

All in all it was so much easier to ride. I only used my whistle once! The best part of the trip was valet bike parking at a downtown hotel and indoor bike parking at a bed and breakfast.

It feels like a combination of infrastructure, enforced respect for cyclists (3 foot rule) and a critical mass of cyclists can contribute to a safer, saner ride.

Link to the 3 foot laws:


The worst thing about 'vehicular cyclists' is not that they are simplistic, and not that they are self-righteous, and not that they are dead-horse-flogging-repetitive, it's that they have no class. Kevin, you couldn't wait until she was at rest before you had to use her to make a point? Sick.