Toronto cyclists call for tougher safety rules after 3 people killed in 2 months
The tragic death of a 23-year-old woman who was struck by two cars while riding her bike along Dufferin Street on Wednesday night is once again giving people in Toronto pause before they hit the pavement.
While true that cyclist fatalities reached historic lows over the first half of 2020 amid the pandemic, serious injuries and deaths are starting to make headlines more regularly again in Canada's largest city, and advocates say something needs to change.
Three cyclists have suffered horrifying deaths on the streets of Toronto since September alone after being struck by vehicles on public roads.
We could stop this if we wanted to. This happens because too many of our political leaders don't care. Our hearts are with this young woman's family - unimaginable anguish. #ZeroVision #TODeadlyStreets #PublicHealthCrisisTO #BikeTO #TOpoli https://t.co/bKSi2u88QA— FFSS (@FFSafeStreets) December 3, 2020
The first, a 37-year-old man, was ensnared by a streetcar track and fell over while cycling along Dundas Street West near Bathurst on Sept. 24. He was subsequently struck by a car and "dragged for a distance," sustaining fatal injuries.
On Nov. 20, 59-year-old retired teacher John Offut was crushed under the front wheels of a cement truck on Royal York Road in Mimico. The experienced cyclist died instantly and a 47-year-old truck driver is said to be facing charges.
A 23-year-old woman was then killed on Wednesday night, just across from Dufferin Mall, while riding south on Dufferin Street. Police say a white cargo van "clipped" the young woman's bike, throwing her into northbound traffic, where she was fatally struck by a black SUV.
Whenever a Toronto cyclist hears about a tragic & unnecessary death, we know how easily it could have been us. I have cycled this stretch of road many times & I always end up riding on west sidewalk b/c I'm afraid of how quickly cars speed along Dufferin. https://t.co/ltk0AD6YrC— Derek Pokora (@derekpokora) December 3, 2020
Making matters all the more painful for cyclists, the City of Toronto had announced only two days earlier that it would be removing bike lanes along Brimley Road — lanes that had been installed this summer as part of the city's ActiveTO program and were widely praised for improving Scarborough's cycling infrastructure.
To its credit, the City of Toronto has installed several permanent new bike lanes since the pandemic hit, but the fact remains that dangerous and distracted driving behaviour poses serious threats to both cyclists and pedestrians.
Despite all of the talk about (and money toward) Mayor John Tory's Vision Zero road safety program in recent years, pedestrians and cyclists keep dying horrific deaths on Toronto streets.
"Our most vulnerable road users are paying too high a price for simply doing what drivers take for granted — getting around the city safely." - @drivingdotca #BikeTO #WalkTOhttps://t.co/mM0AvxiabL— Cycle Toronto (@CycleToronto) December 3, 2020
"Our current approach is failing. People are being killed biking home. Older adults are afraid to cross the street, and parents don’t want to let their kids walk or ride their bikes around their own neighbourhoods," said Ontario NDP transit critic Jessica Bell in a statement on Friday.
"We must be a better and safer city than this."
While road safety groups have long been calling upon all three levels of government for change, Bell is now specifically asking the province to "introduce tougher safety regulations on trucks and implement a Vision Zero provincial road safety strategy to reduce deaths and injuries on Ontario's roads to zero."
Please read about John Offutt who was killed on our streets.— Kevin Rupasinghe (@RupasingheKevin) December 2, 2020
Nearly 25% of fatal collisions w/ pedestrians or cyclists involve heavy trucks. 3 govts could collaborate to make them safer: https://t.co/oMDjRgvN2Z #WalkTO #BikeTO #VisionZero #TOpoli #ONpoli #CANpoli @NACTO https://t.co/2RsyuvTMtJ pic.twitter.com/dADsVcjNzX
"We need immediate action to stop people from being killed on our streets by reckless drivers," said Bell on Friday. "People have a right to make it home on their bike without being killed or injured."
While new government policies might help save lives in the future, the issue of safety for cyclists and pedestrians goes far beyond policy: it's a matter of basic human rights and equality for road users who aren't in motor vehicles.
"Cycle Toronto is struggling to find the words to express how deeply saddened we are," said Tamara Nahal, Community Engagement Manager at Cycle Toronto, to blogTO of the recent fatalities.
"Every time someone is killed riding a bicycle in Toronto, it feels deeply personal because it could have been one of us: many of us have cycled on Royal York Road and Dufferin Street in Toronto. Every death is a tragedy."
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