Violence on the Road

Round up the usual suspects.

Both the Toronto Star and the Toronto Globe and Mail have been pretty good about covering issues that matter to the ALLDERBLOB this past week [must be a slow news week –ed.]

No, they haven’t picked up our call to ban automobile advertising and run it as an unsigned editorial. And no, they haven’t put the ALLDERBLOB on the “opinion” page.

Okay, it’s also true that they haven’t even let our argument against car ads leak into their “letters to the editor” page.


Some ideas are still too shocking for some to contemplate, we imagine. Something about the source of revenue for those fat cat editor-types, maybe [hey, watch it–ed.].

But the Star had half-decent coverage of the memorial members of the group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) held the day after Boxing day here in Toronto, for Isaac Morkel, a 52-year-old cyclist who had been killed a week earlier. Even the Globe gave the memorial some three sentences or so.

Morkel died when a truck turning left at a green light hit him as he rode through. It appears Morkel had the right of way (as determined by the police investigation). Word is the driver is to be charged with a Highway Traffic Act (HTA) offence.

When Morkel was killed it was not clear initially what had happened. News reports varied. However at the memorial, area residents who had witnessed the accident or its aftermath emerged, and described a truck that was so cumbersome it was on the verge of mounting the sidewalk at the corner where it hit Morkel.

The corner in question is a piece of work. Located where Eastern Avenue crosses Leslie Avenue in the east end of Toronto, it’s home to a constant barrage of truck and car traffic. At the same time, it’s a critical link in the bicycle plan to get from bikelanes on Jones Ave. to the popular carfree Martin Goodman Trail and the Leslie Street Spit, a carfree (on weekends) ecological preserve. In other words, cyclists use the street constantly–for shopping, for commuting, and for simple pleasure riding.

But car and truck traffic on Leslie arrives in droves from the Gardiner Expressway in the west, and from Kingston road in the east. In the two blocks that cyclists must use, Leslie is home to two huge box stores (and their parking lots) and is a main route to the industrial uses of Toronto’s port lands.

Where Eastern crosses Leslie westbound, it sweeps to the south making a turning angle from Leslie to Eastern of about 110 degrees.

This is the turn the transport truck was attempting to navigate when it hit Morkel. One witness reports (in a story in the Riverdale/Beach Mirror) having seen “three or four” crashes involving bicycles and cars or trucks at this corner in the past two years.

ARC in its press release about the memorial called for the city to follow through on its own “Coroner’s recommendation” of six years ago, to identify and investigate problem intersections from the point of view of cyclist safety, with an eye to fixing them.

In the coverage in the Toronto Star, the reporter, Pritha Yelaja, picked up this angle with a quote from Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason: “If the city knows it has a dangerous situation for cyclists and chose to do nothing because of political expediency, they could be found liable” As Yelaja notes, “Gleason successfully sued the city of Toronto in 2004 on behalf of a cyclist who was injured near the intersection of Queen and McCaul Sts” (in Toronto).

It is critical that cyclists work together and demand our representatives in government not “do nothing” about known “dangerous situations.”

Of course, we would hold that allowing cars to be advertised in itself perpetuates “a dangerous situation for cyclists.” Political expediency? What else could it be?

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