The federal government has no plans to bring in legislation that advocates say would have prevented a Toronto mother and cyclist from being dragged to her death under a truck Monday. Not enough evidence it would work, Transport Canada says.
“Unfortunately, side guards are not a guarantee of safety,” spokeswoman Mélanie Emma Quesnel said Wednesday. “Transport Canada has not found research data indicating that side guards would be effective in Canada. Studies completed don’t provide sufficient evidence to move forward with a regulation.”
Opposition politicians and road-safety advocates beg to differ.
For more than a decade, they’ve called for rules requiring big trucks to have guards installed to prevent cyclists, pedestrians or even motorists from being dragged under in the event of a collision. A 1998 coroner’s report into Toronto-area cycling deaths recommended they be considered as a lifesaving option. In much of Europe, they’ve been mandatory for years.
And, Jenna Morrison’s shattered friends say, it just might have saved her life.
“We’ve had a lot of wake-up calls,” said Aron Slipacoff, who’s been a close friend for more than a decade. “Is this another wake-up call? Uh, yeah.”
Ms. Morrison, a 38-year-old dancer and yoga instructor, was five months pregnant when she was hit by the cab of a truck turning right onto Dundas Street, dragged underneath and crushed beneath its back wheels. A passerby held her hand. She was pronounced dead on the scene.
Carlos Gonzalez-Vio knew the moment he recognized her trail-a-bike – the extension built to turn an adult bike into a tandem equipped for a small child.
Mr. Gonzalez-Vio got the call Monday from his friend Florian Schuck, whose partner, Jenna, hadn’t come to pick up five-year-old Lucas from school. Could Mr. Gonzalez-Vio go check on her?
At first, he saw the taped-off police scene on Dundas Street as an obstacle en route to the family’s Sterling Road home. Then he saw Lucas’s bike.
“That’s when I realized that’s why Florian couldn’t get a hold of his lady,” he said. “It slowly started to become apparent that might be as far as I’m going on that day.”
Mr. Gonzalez-Vio can’t bring himself to say much about the ensuing phone call to Mr. Schuck, or the way he talked his friend home along the highway from Hamilton, where the production designer was working on a film set. It was all he could do to hang on to him when he arrived.
“My focus was to catch him as he fell into the reality of what happened,” he said.
They waited by the side of the road for what seemed like an eternity. Police couldn’t confirm what they already knew, because Ms. Morrison hadn’t taken any ID with her when she left the house on what should have been a short, routine trip to pick up her son from junior kindergarten.
Toronto Police are still investigating. They haven’t laid charges in connection with the accident.
Toronto is the cyclist collision capital of Canada. According to the city’s own statistics, more bikes are involved in accidents here, per 100,000 people, than in any of the eight major cities studied.
It’s because of both the physical idiosyncrasies of a traffic-clogged metropolis cross-hatched by streetcar tracks – and the mutual distrust motorists and cyclists have for each other.
Cyclist advocates hope Ms. Morrison’s highly publicized death comes as a call to action. They say the problem isn’t new. And the solutions are no mystery.
Urban cycling consultant Yvonne Bambrick worries that Ms. Morrison’s death will scare cyclists off the road. There’s safety in numbers, she argues. Fewer bikes would have the opposite effect.
In Mr. Slipacoff’s mind, Ms. Morrison remains the strong dancer and yoga instructor with an almost superhuman vitality: She swam across the lake where they went camping in August, towing delighted children in a raft behind her.
“We’re just tormented by these images we create in our heads,” he said. “This beautiful woman being crushed.”
Ms. Morrison’s friends have set up a trust fund in her name at TD bank.