Plus ca change department:
This comes along a bit late in the chain of events. However.
We have held back from making comment on the latest fatality of a Toronto cyclist until now. Not that we haven’t thought about it a lot. We’ve paid careful attention to the news on this one, from the moment we first heard of it. But we’ve been holding our tongue, waiting for act five of the tragedy.
We’re tired of waiting.
Bring on the Deus Ex Machina!
Here’s how the city of Toronto described the crash that killed the cyclist in their own press release:
Cyclist killed in collision with City vehicle
TORONTO, June 8 /CNW/ – A City of Toronto Transportation Services vehicle was involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist this morning on Bayview Ave. at approximately 8:15 a.m.
The Transportation vehicle, a small dump truck pulling a trailer, was traveling southbound on Bayview Ave., south of Highway 401, when a collision occurred between a cyclist and the vehicle at the intersection of Bayview Ave. and Fifeshire Rd./Truman Rd.
“We are cooperating fully with the police in their investigation of this very serious and tragic matter,” said Gary Welsh, General Manager, Transportation Services.
For further information: Media contact: Steve Johnston, Sr.
Communications Coordinator, (416) 392-4391
Here’s how the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser described it:
Cyclist killed by garbage truck
June 08, 2007
Rachel De Lazzer
A cyclist was killed this morning when his bicycle collided with a garbage truck in the city’s north end.
The City of Toronto truck and the cyclist were both travelling southbound on Bayview Ave. just south of Highway 401 when they collided where the road narrows at Fife Rd., said Toronto police Staff Sgt. Keith Haines.
The truck was towing a trailer with a Bobcat industrial machine on it, he said.
The southbound lanes of Bayview were closed for the morning, but reopened at midday.
The victim was believed to be about 35, but police could not immediately identify him.
He was taken to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he died from his injuries.
Here’s the police press release:
Traffic fatality #21/2007
Broadcast time: 22:50
Saturday, June 9, 2007
On Friday June 8, 2007, at about 8:09 a.m., a 48−year−old man was cycling in the southbound curb lane of Bayview Avenue, south of Fifeshire Road.
It is alleged that:
− a City of Toronto work truck, with trailer, was also travelling in the southbound curb lane,
− for unknown reasons, the truck and cyclist came into contact, knocking the cyclist to the roadway,
− the truck came to a sudden stop and was rear−ended by a 1993 SUV.
The cyclist was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−1900, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), or online at www.222tips.com.
Constable George Schuurman, Public Information, for Sergeant Steve O’Donovan, Traffic Services.
You know the drill, by now: a dedicated and careful all-season cyclist, fit and trim (hey–at age 48 he was estimated by first responders to be only 35) on a busy road near Canada’s busiest highway is struck by a city of Toronto truck towing a trailer carrying a small excavator. It happens on a beautiful, warm spring day. He dies at the scene, or shortly thereafter. The incident happens on a street where the width shrinks by a lane, in broad daylight. Was he struck from the rear? Was he clipped by the trailer? Was it a case where truck sideguards would have protected the cyclist? All this is up for debate. Would it have helped if the city didn’t have those bus lay-bys, which effectively widen the road and then shrink it again in an unpredictable manner? It’s not clear.
What’s clear is the man is dead.
The family has requested his anonymity be protected, but what we know is he was a father of four, married to a Toronto Police Sargent.
Some friends of ours, and friends of the cyclist, held a memorial a week after the crash. About 22 people made the long haul up to Bayview and Fifeshire, just south of the 401, for the sad event.
When a cyclist is killed, sides are often drawn. “The driver was inexperienced,” we hear. “The cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet,” we hear. As if there could be an excuse.
Often, there’s a feeling that some “authority” or other has hegemony.
In this case, where the Toronto Police Service is involved as a victim, we hope the City of Toronto can be called to task for its intransigence on the (nearly) 10-year-old Toronto Coroner’s investigation into cyclist fatalities, which recommended (number fifteen) sideguards on large trucks and (number twelve) respect for cyclists: “law of the sea” brought to land: not “Steam gives way to sail,” but “motor gives way to muscle.”
Or, in the dry language of the coroner’s report:
The concept of motorized vehicles yielding to non-motorized vehicles, who in turn must yield to pedestrians seems to be a common sense rule which should be accepted by all road users.
Meanwhile, ICES BUG, a city of Toronto-recognized “Bicycle Users Group” based at Sunnybrook Hospital’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, has been struggling to make cycling along Bayview Avenue (Sunnybrook iis on Bayview, just south of the collision site) safer for a while. They had a meeting with Ward 25 Councillor Cliff Jenkins scheduled for last week.
Their request? A bikelane on Bayview.
A bike lane on Bayview should be top on our priority list: Here is why:
1. Bayview represents the best available continuous north (up to the 401) to south (Eglinton) bike route in Ward 25. The alternatives are Yonge (more bike unfriendly) and Leslie (too far east)
2. Bayview is
a. a major artery to a University (York, Glendon Campus). Students travel by bicycle more often than non-students
b. a major artery to Sunnybrook Hospital, a major employer and destination point
c. a major artery to major park/recreation area – Sunnybrook and other connecting parks
d. a major artery to designated city bike routes/lanes (south east through park; south to downtown; west through cemeteries and beltline)
3. Bayview already has a bike lane present that connects the Granite Club to Lawrence (wow, like 1/2 KM!)
4. Cars travel dangerously fast between Sheppard and Lawrence because there are no businesses/parking
5. There is room for a bike lane (my perception) almost the entire way
6. Bayview and Sheppard is becoming a high density residential neighbourhood which may increase cycling volume
7. A cyclist died on it today
Now, a bikelane is a special thing. We at the ALLDERBLOB see bikelanes as a light-handed version of Baron Von Haussman‘s excavation and remodeling of Paris: an opportunity to create light where before was only shadow–but without destroying the fine-grained fabric, as Haussman did. Bikelanes make possible unexpected linkages, freedom of movement in places of car-clotted clutter, mysterious openings in the city.
The city of Toronto has a plan for bikelanes, and a department dedicated to installing them. It’s financed by our taxes to the tune of several million dollars each year.
Does this mean bikelanes get built? Not necessarily. Does it mean they get built where cyclist need or want them? Only occasionally.
This year we’ve seen one councillor propose bikelanes on a street where no cyclist rides, and another councillor create one where a link is absolutely needed, and will benefit all cyclists in ways that are difficult to predict. That neither street is on the bikeway master plan has not escaped notice.
Again, folks have noticed.
Nature abhors a vacuum.
We’ve watched for some time as one group or another struggles with the Bloor/Danforth question. We’ve taken a side, ourselves. A bikelane on Bloor/Danforth, while not on the bike master plan (like Yonge, like Eastern), makes enormous sense. It links cyclists with destinations east and west across the entire city. It sits above a subway line capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of would-be car-drivers. It’s relatively flat for most of its distance. It’s a street that could stand to be “Thickened,” as we described it in a previous posting.
Most recently, the struggle for bikelanes on Bloor/Danforth took the form of guerrilla lane-painting. Apparently, as documented on the pages of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, there’s a bear-like group out there known as OURS, for the “Other Urban Repair Squad,” which with non-regulation pink spraypaint has decorated the curb lane of Bloor street with bike-like stencils and a continuous pink line: a hopeful gesture, but quickly obliterated by the city’s road-scraping machinery.
Now, in the past, the editors of the Star and Car Advertiser have been unfriendly to cyclists. We still recall our colleague Tim Gleason’s Opinion piece of about 10 years ago, proposing cyclist be treated differently than other road users: given the right to treat stop signs as “yields” (like they do in Idaho) and red lights as stop signs (if the way is clear, you can proceed–again, legal in Idaho). The letters page following Tim’s column was dedicated to folks trashing his position. One or two stopped just short of threatening physical violence upon his person.
On other occasions, we recall the Star fulminating in its editorial against bikelane projects that we saw as logical and necessary–such as the lane on Dundas. They claimed it would destroy the driver’s commute from the east end, if not his life [somehow the driver survives though. –ed.].
So it was with heavy heart that we opened the letters page today to see that the feature of the week was a collection of letters regarding the story about the pink lane painters.
Something is up at the Star and Car Advertiser however. Maybe it has something to do with the online poll they ran last week, which saw overwhelming support (64.8% in favour) for the proposition that the city should “prioritize” the construction of bikelanes.
And, quel surprise!–five out of six letters selected by the Star applauded the OURS group. Is that 64.8%? More like 83.3%.
The collection included supportive letters from names familiar to us: Joe LaFortune and Michael Polanyi among them; the clincher was this one:
Does the Other Urban Repair Squad take requests? We sure could use a bike lane on Bayview Ave. No rush – any time this summer would be good. Many thanks.
Marjorie Nichol, Toronto
So here’s the question, and we come full circle: if a bikelane can be seen as a lighthanded version of Haussmann’s urban excavation, could a pretty painted pink bike be the lighthanded deus ex machina that’s needed on Bayview?