Toronto's cycling community shaken by first fatality of 2021
Toronto's cycling community is calling for improved safety measures following the tragic death of an 18-year-old Wednesday evening.
The 50-year-old driver of a cement truck travelling northbound on Avenue Road north of Bloor Street West struck the cyclist in the curb lane around 6:30 p.m. last night. The cyclist succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
This marks just the first cyclist fatality of 2021 in Toronto, the last time being when 23-year-old Alex Amaro was killed while riding her bike on Dufferin Street.
The year 2021 has seen roads become demonstrably safer for cyclists through the continuation of the ActiveTO program's temporary restrictions on vehicle traffic and the separation of road and bike traffic.
Even with these improvements, the latest fatality is a stark reminder of the 28 major injuries and four cycling fatalities recorded in 2020.
Its terrifying to hear about more cycling injury & deaths in #toronto. It’s a reasonable expectation for cyclists - adults and kids…to bike to work, or to friends’, or to school, or to a park, and not have the risks that we have to our lives. #VisionZero #biketo @joe_cressy— ainsley 🏳️🌈 (@ainsleychapman) August 19, 2021
Toronto cyclists want more planning and action from the City, including calls to accelerate the ActiveTO program and make its upgrades permanent.
Given yesterday's #BikeTO death at Avenue & Bloor, here's an urgent action alert calling on @JohnTory & City Council to install the Avenue Road #ActiveTO project now, accelerate bike lanes across Toronto & make ActiveTO permanent. #TOpoli #VisionZero https://t.co/4c7Z9TueiE— Robert #CargoBike Zaichkowski (@RZaichkowski) August 19, 2021
Their voices are being heard by Ward 11 University—Rosedale Councillor Mike Layton, who tweeted support to give cycling infrastructure the same priority level as roads and highways.
We spend billions maintaining the Gardiner, but lack the resources and political will necessary to make the major changes needed to make our roads safe. Council must challenge the status quo and invest substantially into bold safer streets. I will continue the fight to do this.— Mike Layton (@m_layton) August 19, 2021
Some in the community aren't satisfied with this response, directing the blame towards the management of construction in the area and the city not heeding locals'’ warnings.
This death wasn’t about a lack of resources, but about a culture of inaction. Contractors, staff and Councillors were repeatedly informed over the course of two days and nobody did anything. What are you doing about that today?— Paul Kulig (@PaulKulig_TO) August 19, 2021
Construction at the intersection has been forcing drivers into the cycling track, raising concerns in recent weeks. Wednesday's tragedy was foreshadowed in a tweet from two days before the collision warning of dangerous conditions at the intersection.
Bloor and Avenue Rd: Work zone has drivers merging to the right, directly into a painted bike lane. Near miss after near miss. Construction needs to happen - disregard for safety doesn't have to come with it. This kind of thing needs to stop in this city @311Toronto - vid later pic.twitter.com/Ed39YBI1hr— Dave Edwards (@DaveLikesBikes) August 16, 2021
The phrasing of some news headlines covering the event is also garnering a response from the community. Some are unhappy about wording that shifts responsibility away from the truck's driver.
Please stop reporting like this. I understand you need that clicky headline, but these stories need to be more accurate. The make and model of the vehicle is irrelevant as it has no agency. This stuff matters in the public discourse. He was killed by a driver. #bikeTO #WalkTO pic.twitter.com/NYjx2fUWwT— Marvin Macaraig (@MarvinMacaraig) August 19, 2021
Another safety measure, the city's Vision Zero Road Safety program, is the subject of continued criticism over a lack of apparent progress in making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
"Every four hours, a pedestrian is hit in Toronto" - @moore_oliver, June 2016, before Council adopted #VisionZero— Kevin Rupasinghe (@RupasingheKevin) August 19, 2021
5 years later? Like clockwork:
-230pm Yonge/Finch, serious injury
-630pm Avenue/Bloor, death
-11pm Kipling/Dixon, serious injury#TOpoli https://t.co/y7UnYfNdGe pic.twitter.com/EAQY1UfMD3
Though the program aims to make streets safer for all, the Vision Zero webpage seems to put the responsibility for safety squarely on the shoulders of pedestrians and cyclists rather than motorists.
The page offers downloadable safety guides for pedestrians, school children, cyclists, senior citizens, but a guide for drivers is conspicuously absent.
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