The recent death of cyclist Jenna Morrison has re-opened the dialogue on how cyclists and cars can share the streets safely. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Jenna was a yoga teacher and pregnant mother on her way to pick up her little boy from kindergarten when she was clipped by a van as she tried to merge onto a bike lane on Dundas. She was thrown under his back wheels and died instantly of massive head trauma and of course her fetus died with her. Jenna’s family lived in my community and her young son attended our local school. So perhaps it is because I’m a mother, her neighbour, or because I was two blocks away when the ambulance whizzed past me toward Dundas that I have been haunted by her death all week. Still I cannot see how her story would fail to resonate with just about anyone who is a human being and thought of what it might be like to sit at school and wait for a mommy who never showed up again….ever. Yet a quick search on the web turns up a surprising amount of blame-the-victim dialogue and two days later, another cyclist was rampaged by an enraged driver very near the site of this recent tragedy so obviously the message is not received loud and clear.
I can’t help but despair at the persistence of self-entitlement and lack of regard for human life that spills into the streets of Toronto. I also cannot believe the shortcomings in urban planning and infrastructure that continually fail to address the problem of cyclists and cars sharing the road in this city which is the most dangerous place to ride a bike in Canada. Mostly though I cannot fathom how people can pit a person on a bicycle against someone rocketing through traffic behind the wheel of a few tonnes of steel and fail to see that only one of them has the potential to be a lethal weapon. There are no easy answers to these big questions but it is clear that a dialogue must be opened.
Perhaps if we all take a little care, slow down a bit and inform ourselves, we can improve things just a tad. So while I’m personally too damned scared to share the road with cars, preferring to gamble on my own two feet on a sidewalk, I did find some interesting and perhaps helpful tips for cyclists online and have pasted the link to the Toronto Cyclists Union in below. I ran them past my husband who does commute a lot of the time on his bike (those are days I keep one eye on the clock until I hear the reassuring clink of the garden gate to signal he’s made it home) and he said that there are several points here that are worth considering before you move out into traffic. Meanwhile, there is the advocacy element. There have been many creative solutions for bike lanes and trails to intersect the city but most have tanked on the point of commitment of infrastructure dollars. Maybe the answer is that bikes and cars should not share the same roads at all. Maybe the cars should give over some space so each have their own turf to travel on. Come to think of it, if there were no cars in the picture, I would hop on my bike in fair weather and foul and enjoy the benefits to myself, my kids and the environment as well.
As I was writing, my little son came up and poked a board book into my lap which is my cue to take a break and spend some time with him. The book was called “Where is Mommy?” and I was instantly drawn back into the chain reaction of grief set in motion almost a week ago to the minute. So please slow down, think of your city as a shared space and pay attention to the people around you so that we can all get home safely to our loved ones.
Toronto Cyclists Union http://bikeunion.to/handbook/english retrieved November 14, 2011
Peter Kuitenbrouwer (November 14, 2011). Ghost Ride Honours Fallen Toronto Cyclist Jenna Morrison. Toronto, National Post. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/11/14/jenna-morrison-ghost-ride-toronto-cyclists-honour-of-fallen-mom/ Retrieved November 14, 2011.