Bicycles in Toronto
TORONTO – There is a white bicycle at the corner of Bloor and University street. Another cyclist’s life has been claimed and I cannot help but think that this somehow could have been avoided. The boy was only 18. What makes this even harder is that he appears to be from the Filipino community. This could have been a nephew, a brother, a friend of the family. This is not the first fatality in the Annex area. In 2018, at Bloor and St. George, a 58-year-old woman was killed by a flatbed truck.
In 2020, even though most of us were in lockdown at home, there were still 28 major injuries and 4 deaths among cyclists. On average, 74 cyclists die in Canada each year. In 2020, an additional 25 km were provided to cyclists in Toronto, bringing the total to 40 km of bike lanes. To provide a clearer picture, this represents a roundtrip distance from Yonge & Bloor to the edge of Etobicoke. Toronto has made an effort to make this a cyclist-friendly city. ActiveTO was a hit last year, as we all tried to get fit again after lockdown; road closures extended well into October. Look at Bloor Street; look at University Avenue. There are hardly any lanes left for motorists. Even going to Queen’s Quay has become nerve-racking experience with cyclist colonizing what little sidewalk is left for the pedestrians.
By all accounts, cycling is important for personal fitness. It reduces our carbon footprint; it’s our own little way of helping the environment. Its economic utility aids those who cannot afford their own car. It is a quick way to get to work. Where would we be in this pandemic without Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, Foodora, etc.? Parents bond with their young children through cycling. And if you’re lucky, you may even see a small dog stashed away in a trailer in tow.
While this all sounds good, a cyclist must bear in mind that they are sharing the road with impatient motorists (COVID fatigue is real), heavy machinery and an ever more crowded roadway. A few recommendations for cyclists are a worthy reminder: 1) Wear a helmet. You may feel like a dork and it may clash with your outfit, but helmets protect skulls. 2) Wear reflective tape, ring your bell and use hand gestures. 3) Don’t be a Daredevil. We are still in a pandemic and as variants abound, you are subjecting yourself to enough risk as it is. Likewise, rules also apply to motorists: 1) Slow down. It boggles the mind what exactly it is you are all rushing for when we are still in this pandemic. 2) Do not Tweet/Insta/FaceTime while you are out on the road. Eyes up. You may miss that child-cyclist in your blindspot. 3) Just because you can turn, does not mean you have the right of way each time. This summer alone, I witnessed two cyclists on two separate occasions get their back wheels clipped by drivers turning on a red light. Think of it this way – if you miss your bus, there will always be another one coming up next. Similarly, if you miss your light, it is bound to change again 2 minutes later.
Small behavioural changes coupled with more presence of mind in the driver’s seat will help make our roads safer for all.
Out there, a mother grieves for her child; we feel it each time we look upon a white bicycle bedecked with flowers. Let’s work together to share the road safely.
Pics by Ricky Castellvi