When a cyclist is killed in Jane Pitfield’s ward, does it make a sound?

The Toronto Star had this dry little note the other day:

Cyclist killed by collision with cement truck

Sep. 12, 2006. 02:04 AM
LINDA NGUYEN
STAFF REPORTER

A 47-year-old male cyclist is dead after being hit by a cement truck in the city’s north-end Monday afternoon.

The man, whose identity is not being released, was riding his bicycle west in the curb lane of Eglinton Ave. E. near Leslie St. when he was hit by the cement truck going in the same direction around 4:30 p.m., Toronto police said.

The man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where he later died, police said.

Toronto Traffic Services is investigating the scene and no other details have been released at this time.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-1900 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS

We find ourselves wondering, what is it to “collide” with a cement mixer? It must be a little like colliding with the earth itself, after a long fall. We can only hope that for the cyclist, who for the time being remains nameless except to the investigating officers and to his family, it was as brief a moment of pain as possible. The story says he “succumbed to his injuries” in the hospital; it is to be hoped that in the meantime he never regained consciousness, or if he did, the shock of his experience prevented his feeling any pain.

Sadly, the pain of those who remain behind is not so easy to erase, much as it is to be wished away. We are reminded of the driver of the garbage truck who, carrying about his appointed rounds in the west end of the city a little over a year ago, drove westward into the sun and into the path of a child riding home after visiting a friend’s house.

They say he had to be literally dragged from the site at 11 pm the next night by his family. They say he was in the hospital on a suicide watch. The plot thickens with the fact that he’s a new father, with an infant son.

It cannot be easy to forget when one’s actions are directly responsible for the death of another human being. It is not for no reason we have a crime called “manslaughter.”

We hope the driver on Eglinton Ave. has resources for the help he or she will need.

We hope the family of the cyclist has resources for the help they will need.

But we know one thing. We know that cyclists have resources for the help they need. If we work together we can see to it that the dangerous conditions we experience every single time we take to the streets are ameliorated. We know that, as surely as we know the location of this crash, on Eglinton at Leslie, is within the boundaries of Toronto City Councillor Jane Pitfield‘s ward. We know this as surely as we know that Pitfield is the lone aspirant for the office of mayor in this fall’s election given any hope of victory against incumbent Mayor David Miller.

We have seen and heard both these two candidates pay lipservice to the needs of bicycle safety. We have seen them on their own steeds, participating in the annual “ride for pancakes” that that converges at city hall at the start of bikeweek.

Now is the chance for them to show they can bike the bike, not just talk the talk.

For this death, like the two cyclist deaths that happened on the same day earlier this year, ought not to have happened. It was, in the words of our man Blobby, “Eminently preventable.”

We gather from the information available that the collision happened when the cement mixer engulfed the cyclist in its undercarriage, from the side. We gather that once again (this is the third cyclist killed in Toronto this year, the third by large truck, the third in which a side swipe and swallowing by the void under the truck’s wheels was death’s delivery method), once again the cyclist in question would be alive still if the trucking industry had been brought into line by legislation mandating “sideguards on large trucks,” as “recommended” so many god damned years ago by the Toronto regional coroner, Dr W.J. Lucas.

Our friends in the cycling community will gather to mourn the loss of a fellow cyclist for the third time this year. Please turn to the webpage of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists for specific information, but the memorial is to take place at the place the cyclist was killed, seven days after the crash that took his life.

Bring flowers. Bring anger. Bring resolve.

7 Responses to “When a cyclist is killed in Jane Pitfield’s ward, does it make a sound?”

  1.  

    About a dozen of us braved the cold rainy night to ride into the deathtrap at Eglinton and Leslie. You can see images at Martino's Bikelane Diary and at Toronto Cranks.

    A couple tv cameras showed up and spent a long time filming us as we waded into the curblane with our banner: "A Cyclist was Killed here last week" and our fluttering candles. Some of us turned on the news that night to see if we made the cut, but it does not appear that we did.

    The big news that night was not a gang of unruly mourners standing in the rain, but the two contenders for mayor, David Miller and Jane Pitfield, mugging for their own share of the spotlight in a debate held at the University of Toronto.

    Did we mention this collision, the one that killed the cyclist on Eglinton at Leslie, took place in Jane Pitfield's ward? Did we mention the fact that a simple device guarding the space between the wheels on the truck would likely have spared the cyclist's life? Did we mention these guards have been mandated for years in Europe, and were specificlly recommended by the Toronto Coroner in a report issued nine years ago?

    Yeah, I know we did.

    It was shitty, there in the rain at Eglinton and Leslie. But I would rather have been there than sitting cozy in the audience at the mayoral debate. I only wish I could figure out some way to put the issue on the agenda at the next one.

    A friend drew up the appropriate scenario:

    But if it were a movie, Jimmy Stewart, not M. Ghandi, would lead a peloton of citizen cyclists onto Queens Park Circle. He'd shout, "These are our roads and they aren't going to take them away from us this time!". The film's car wranglers would create automotive chaos in back of the bikes for the cameras as the cops scrambled in front to block their path. A solid cordon of police prevents forward movement then, and Jimmy Stewart cries, "Everyone stick together now and put your bkes down and sit on the road! We haven't broken any laws, they'll have to haul us away!". His best girl pleads with her father the minister of transport and makes him recant his libertarian pro-business past and he immediately drafts a bill requiring sideguards on all rucks. He introduces it to the house, cut to the girl as she bails Jimmy and his mates out of jail and the now friendly cops shake hands with them as they leave.

  2. Spin says:
     

    Nice one, Mr. A. Have either of these candidates for Mayor said anything coherent about road safety, particularly as it relates to vulnerable road users like bicyclists?

  3.  

    I suspect they would say they have more important things to do than worry about bicycle riders and pedestrian issues.

    However, it may be germaine that a google of "Jane Pitfield" gives you BikeToronto's rating of her among the first five hits. I suggest cyclists are among the most active of the city's constituents.

    A google of "mayor david miller" does not yield anything like the same results. I am not sure what this means.

  4. mysamantha says:
     

    That was my dad. I appreciate your effort to bring the public news. But I do belive you should have asked me and my family first also another one of the bicyclists was my friends dad. They both had families and children and if you think for one second that they are the ones who caused they're own accidents then you have made a huge mistake! Truck drivers are not careful I have almost been hit or seen accidents with trucks. My dad was the most careful bicyclist in the world. And you want to know what hurts the most? Is to find out your own father is dead. To have no one there to be with him that he knew to help him get through the pain. They say time heals everything well that's not true. Time won't heal the loss of my dad.

  5.  

    Hi Samantha,
    Sorry not to have gotten back sooner. I am out of the habit of writing for my blog and so I don't check for comments that often anymore.

    Anyway, I will post your comment, but I wanted to make a separate note to you because your message touched me and made me feel quite sad. I don't want you to think in anyway I was judging your father's cycling skills in my post--in any case I know next to nothing about what happened. I am a member of a Toronto group called Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) and as I recall when we held the cyclist's memorial for your dad (as we do for every cyclist killed on the roads in Toronto) we did try to get in touch with the family, but not sure we were successful.

    Like you I have had many close calls on bicycles, and know from first-hand experience that trucks are not safe things to be around on the roads. In fact one of the main things ARC has fought for (with little success, unfortunately) is for Transport Canada to mandate sideguards on trucks, which would prevent a cyclist (or a pedestrian) from being pulled under the wheels of a truck. Who knows, if the truck that killed your father had had a sideguard he might be alive today.

    Anyway, Thanks for your comment and again, sorry for any misunderstanding or pain my writing may have caused.

    Jake

  6.  

    [editor's note: we received the following message as a response to our post "Frank Magazine's Frummery Foray" but felt it made more sense to include it in this string, together with our response that follows]

    August 29, 2010

    Jake,
    My name is Karen MacNeil Hartmann. My husband was Ulrich Hartmann. He was the 6ft4 gentle cyclist who was killed by the cement truck September 11th, 2006. My daughter Samantha wrote to you in July. She has just shared all this with me. We are coming up to the 4th anniversary of my darling husband's death.
    Ulrich and I had been married for 11 years when he died. He was cycling home from work at Bell on Wynford drive. He would make his way to the beltline bike trail and come home to us to make dinner. He was the daddy of Samantha (aged 9 at the time) and Adam (aged 4). He was the only child of immigrants who came to Canada from Germany when Ulrich was 3.
    Ulrich was a traveller and loved to cycle. I too lived on my bike. We met through a mutual friend and hit it off knowing that we would be important in each other's lives. Our relationship included cycling through Algonquin Park, a cycling tour, on our honeymoon through the Loire Valley in France and treks through all the bike trails in Toronto from the Martin Goodman Trail in the west end to the trails near the Don Valley.
    When we met I did not wear a helmet and he told me of a news story he saw which stated that the most common injury on bikes was head injury and could be prevented by helmets. From then on, I too wore a helmet.
    I want to walk you through the time leading up to Ulrich's tragic accident. September 9th Samantha was at her best friend's house for a sleepover and birthday party. She was upset because she had to leave early to attend a bicycling safety course offered through the police for children, in High Park. We never compromised when it came to safety. She was to attend the second part of the course the following weekend. Needless to say, it never happened.
    The day of the accident I was off (as a Nurse Practitioner I worked various shifts). Samantha was in grade 4 and Adam had just started JK. Adam and I spent the afternoon at Sherway Gardens having a lovely afternoon. [content removed by admin]. I picked up Samantha from school and was about to take her to her piano lesson when the phone rang. I was rushing out the door but decided to answer it. It was Ulrich leaving work. "Hi dear, how are things?" "Good, just taking Samantha to piano." "Could you pick up some buns and I'll bar-b-que some sausages when I get home." "I'll try but not sure where." "Okay." "Okay, I hope the wind is at your back." "I love you." "I love you too, bye."
    I dropped Samantha off at Bloor and Montgomery and walked with Adam to a shop east of Royal York. We got the buns and headed back. As we were crossing Royal York, we saw a cement truck pouring cement and I said to Adam ( who loved Mighty Machines) we will have to tell daddy that you saw a cement truck, close up and pouring cement. I later figured out that that was the time Ulrich was hit.
    When I got home with the kids, I turned on Oprah and waited for Ulrich to come home. He loved to cook and was responsible for most of the meals. When Oprah finished and Ulrich wasn't home I thought I better start the bar-b-que for him. He was never late. While out in the backyard, the phone rang. I went in to answer it but missed it. On the way back out it rang again.
    "Hello, is Ulrich Hartmann there?" "No, I'm sorry can I take a message?" "Aactually, this is the police." I started shaking (as I am now, reliving the moment). "Now, you're scaring me, he's never late." "Yes, there's been an accident." I am now walking with the phone to my next door neighbour's house and starting to cry. "Chris, there's been an accident, could you watch the kids and feed them?" The sausages were now burning and smoking up a storm. "Of course." The police were sending a car for me. I told the kids that there had been an accident and I was going to the hospital. I called his parents to tell them. As I was leaving, I heard Chris tell Adam that everything was going to be okay. I clung to that cramped into the back seat of the squad car. The Police Officers would not talk to me. I was crying and praying, "Please God let me look after him, let him be okay." We drove along the Gardener and up the DVP. They periodically used the sirens and the shoulder of the road to get me up to Sunnybrook.
    In Emerg they had me sit in a quiet room. A pretty young Resident and Chaplain came in to speak with me. The Resident wanted to tell the story as it unfolded for Ulrich. I understood by what she was saying and asked, "Are you telling me he's gone?!" I don't remember much after. Julie, a lovely ER nurse, took me to see him after a while. She explained the equipment still attached to him as he was a Coroner's case, they could not be removed. She explained that
    he had a fractured tibia (shinbone) and they had to reduce it. Then, he was being transfused (we were both regular blood donors) and rushed to emergency surgery when he coded. "He was a fighter and was really trying to stay here." Ulrich's parents arrived. My best friend and then my sister arrived.
    I sang a lullabye to him..."Golden slumbers fiil your eyes, smiles await you when you rise, sleep pretty darling do not cry, and I will sing you a lullabye." I used to sing that to the children at bedtime. I never sang it again.
    Ulrich's mom started having chest pain and had to be admitted for tests. Still crying, I asked Julie, ""How do I tell me kids?" She said, "Be honest, answer their questions, trust your instincts." It was after 10 and I had to go home. Julie called my work to let them know because I was due to work the next morning.
    My sister drove me and my friend Elizabeth home. Enroute my cell phone was ringing- Samantha but I didn't answer it because I wasn't going to lie to her and I wasn't going to tell her over the phone.
    When i got home, my mom had relieved my neighbour. Samantha was up and Adam was asleep. I sat in the rocking chair Ulrich had given me as a gift to nurse Adam in when he was born. I took Samantha in my arms and told her that her daddy had died. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I waited until morning and after breakfast to tell Adam.
    That day I was asked to go to the Coroner's office because in all the sadness and upset, the staff had forgotten to tag Ulrich's body and I needed to go identify him. The nice, young traffic cop who investigated the scene met me there. I was to go in, say, "this is Ulrich Hartmann" and leave. What a cold bastard! I kissed my darling and told him that I would raise the children to the best of my ability, to honor his memory.
    The following days were a blur of phone calls, visits, gift baskets, carepackages and making funeral arrangements. We were contacted about the memorial ride but I was in shock and in no shape to participate. My sister fielded a call from a woman who wanted me to know that she was first on the scene, a nurse and held his hand. Second on the scene was an off-duty ambulance attendant. He was in good hands but you don't have a fair chance when you are rear-ended by a cement truck. He never saw it coming. The truck driver didn't fell the impact (in so may ways). He continued on and had to be flagged down to stop! He was charged but the key witness (having just read her statement) recanted her testimony. The charges had to be dropped. I was only told about the courtdate by the police, the night before and could not arrange to be there. Was in no shape to be there!
    Now it has been almost 4 years. We continue to grieve. I've weaned down from 4 therapists to 2. I haven't been back to work and continue to fight the 'dark night' of depression. I've had to try to help my children through all their sadness and anger. We've just returned to the church but Samantha is angry and is adamant that there is no God. I've thought long and hard about adequate retribution. Came to conclude that the driver should never be allowed to drive again. When stating this to the police officer who called me that night, September 11th, he said, "But that's his livelihood." WHO CARES! "He took Ulrich's livelihood and his life." We planned to die together on our 100th anniversary, making whoopie for the 8th time! We planned to take Adam and Samantha to DisneyWorld for Adam's 6th birhtday! We planned on buying land in Nova Scotia when we retired and spend summers there and winters in our condo in Toronto! Ulrich planned on continuing with his life. Being and excellent son, husband and father. Who will walk Samantha down the aisle? Who will teach Adam to shave? Who will rub my feet when they are blocks of ice in the winter?
    I have only just decided on a headstone and what would be fitting words to capture my feelings for Ulrich. "Golden slumbers fill your eyes, smiles await you when you rise..."
    As I finish writing, it is 4:22 a.m. Samantha has fallen asleep on the living room floor where she was keeping me company and crying with me as I unloaded all of this.
    Jake, this is a long-winded way of letting someone know the impact this has had and that we are in. We want to participate in lobbying for the guards that are put on trucks. We want to try to insure that no one else will die needlessly. How can we work together with you and ARC? Please contact me.
    Karen

    I was comforted by the fact that at least Ulrich would not have to go through the loss we were experiencing. He wouldn't lose his parents or anyone else. The good do sometimes die young. He was 44.

  7.  

    Hi Karen,

    This is Jake Allderdice. I write posts on the ALLDERBLOB and wrote about the memorial for your husband back in 2006. Your daughter’s note and now yours have touched me deeply. Actually I can’t tell you how sad your note made me feel. I really could never handle being an emergency person or in any way dealing with people who are grieving. I too lost a loved one in a traffic crash; my brother when he was 24 and I was 22 years old. He was in a bus that somehow crashed–this was back in 1981. He and the driver were killed, no one else on the bus.

    If you are lucky you will get over it some day but I never have and feel sure I never will. I still search for him or for aspects of him in everyone I meet. Anyway, I doubt this will make you feel any better.

    ARC as I said had fought for sideguards on trucks. We have been largely dormant in the city for several years now, not least with the creation of the “Toronto Cyclist Union” and another group called Toronto Coalition for Active Transport. They are both very vocal and many ARC members have moved on to work with them. In any case ARC has a website at http://www.respect.to, and we meet occasionally. For the past couple years we have only met when a cyclist has been killed, and we hold a memorial. That seems to be our main focus nowadays.

    Would you mind if I shared your email with the group though? It may be that there are people among ARC who would know what to say or how to turn your anger and grief into action. Or maybe just a chance to meet with the folks who held a memorial for your husband, not even knowing anything about him or his family, or anything really except that he was on a bicycle and was killed by a cement mixer. Just saying this is painful.

    Let me know what you would like me to do. I am not sure you would want me to post your message on the ALLDERBLOB; or if I do at the very least it seems to me I should strip it of your personal information including email and your full name? Let me know.

    Again, as I said to your daughter, sorry for taking so long to respond. I just checked for messages for the first time in over a month, so I am writing back the same day I got your note from August 29. I hope I don’t seem too rude.

    Jake Allderdice

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