Toronto Streets Not Getting Safer

By Ben Bull
Published November 14, 2012

Toronto's streets aren't getting any safer. Yesterday a 38 year old female cyclist was hit and critically injured) by a truck at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard.

At the same time, about a five-minute pedal away, city crews were feverishly scrubbing the controversial Jarvis Street bike lanes into oblivion.

After the Gerrard Street collision the truck, apparently, failed to stop. Evidently the driver was unaware of the crushed metal beneath his wheels.

I headed up to Jarvis Street yesterday to try and forestall the bike lane removal. When I got there I witnessed the arrest of a forlorn-looking middle-aged gentleman who was being scooped up off the road by Toronto's finest.

The man was Tomislav Svoboda, a doctor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

I shook Dr. Svoboda's hand and he looked up at me with a bedraggled, little-boy-lost look, an expression he maintained as the police clicked on the cuffs on and gently squeezed him into the back of their cruiser.

As I trudged along Jarvis, watching the city truck bleach away the paint and avoiding the hoards of journalists stood around waiting for something to happen, it occurred to me that the lane would probably be gone within the day.

So much quicker than the several years it took them to install it.

I felt empty as I watched the bike lane bleed into the gutter and thought of the fellow cyclist fighting for her life a few minutes away. It made me wonder if anybody in this city cares.

Like I said - Toronto's streets aren't getting any safer.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By bikelanesforalldowntownstreets (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 13:40:23

Until selfish attitudes are cast aside, this city will continue to value convenience over safety. It is tragic, and will be tragic for those who will have their safety compromised in the future to save someone else 2 minutes.

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted November 14, 2012 at 13:44:08

I thought this might be of value:

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 14:34:00

The 38-year-old woman had been cycling westbound on Gerrard St. E., police said. The collision, shortly before 8:45 a.m., happened at Yonge St. around the time the westbound truck turned right, according to police.

Look, I think it's absurd that they're removing the Jarvis bike lanes too, but seriously, don't put yourself in this situation. Never pass a vehicle on the right in an intersection.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 15:07:48

Evidently the driver was unaware of the crushed HUMAN beneath his wheels.

Fixed that for you.

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By David Wootton (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 21:12:36

You never should have left Hamilton!

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 03:31:52 in reply to Comment 82933

Ben Bull would've been mayor of Hamilton easily. Sadly he made the right choice to go back to TO.

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By Jonny5 (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 09:33:04

Too bad they didn't widen the sidewalks and put in mature trees like the original Jarvis plan before it was hijacked at the last second by TO gave us the narrowest bike lanes in North America riddled with potholes and running from nowhere to nowhere.

10% modal share? ROFL

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 14:30:39

Hey Ben Bull

When I read your article I though that you were going to provide some statistics and time series data on the number of traffic fatalities etc. in Toronto to prove your point.

Instead you mention a single incident of a cyclist getting injured at Yonge and Gerrard. Please explain how this one unfortunate incident is evidence of "Toronto Streets Not Getting any Safer"?

I am beginning to think that your moniker, Ben "Bull", couldn't be more appropriate.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 16:52:34 in reply to Comment 82944

Here you go. How much death shall we list in order to please you? Just a couple blocks away from this 'isolated incident':

"The collision broke the man’s leg, and left his mangled wheelchair sprawled on the road."

"We’re told walking is a healthy activity. But that’s only true if we manage to reach our destination without being run over. And fewer Toronto pedestrians this year are arriving alive."

"according to Ontario’s Deputy Chief Coroner, Toronto averages five pedestrian accidents per day."

"With a rapidly aging population and more people of all ages yearning for a car-less lifestyle, we would all benefit from more walkable neighbourhoods. Indeed, we urge people to walk because it’s better for their health and the environment than driving. We owe them a greater degree of safety. Walking to the grocery store shouldn’t be an extreme sport."

Earlier this week I saw an elderly man almost get mowed down in the middle of Garth under exactly the circumstances excerpted from the latter link:

"Seniors accounted for more than a third of the 95 pedestrian deaths. Little surprise when wide arterials are hard to get across at any pace, let alone slowly or with a cane or walker."

I'm not trying to be bull-headed when I ask, do you not care? In Europe and many US and Canadian cities safety features are being put in place to at least mitigate human error in these situations, while we club each other over the head with ideology like a bunch of apes, instead of doing something about it.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 08:29:08

Toronto just like Hamilton is a democracy. The councilors voted the way their constituents wanted. That is the point of having representation after all. The RTH faithful may not agree but then they have no special powers to rule for all the rest of us (no matter how much that upsets them.) Personally I like the idea of bike lanes but there are thousands of commuters driving on Gerrard who wanted their 5th lane back. I know the RTH regulars are all stressed out about this but on the other hand there are thousands more not so far away that are very happy about it.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 11:00:15

This makes it so much easier for me when I drive to toronto every few months. You must have forgotten that it's all about me!

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 20:10:49 in reply to Comment 82966

not sure what moron posted this but it sure was not I

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By JT (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2012 at 10:53:52

I worked with Dr. Svoboda, in the same building at SMH and we had the same concerns about cycling. And Tomislav is a diehard. He refuses to ride in a car. He takes the mass transit only if absolutely necessary. He has ridden to Tobermory. The guy is a Toronto legend. I used to cycle home on Jarvis but with the stress of negotiating the split at Mt. Pleasant, as well as the potholes and the general nastiness of drivers it was just too much. So instead I would head up Broadview (I lived in East York off the Danforth near Woodbine). On Broadview the biggest danger was pedestrians. The big issue for me was that a cyclist really could not follow the rules of the road and expect to live. I remember once being fumed off the road by a Korean tour bus, on Queen East. I quickly, and blindly turned up the closest street on the right to evade the bus. Once the dust cleared, I found I was on Berkeley st, and a surly OPP officer in his car was pointing me over the side of the road to give me grief for going the wrong way on the one way street. I explained the situation. He was not interested in my explanation. I had to dismount and walk the bike up to the closest intersection. I was lucky, and was never hit. One of the attractions of Hamilton was better road cycling. I do feel a bit conspicuous on my New Hope Bike Coop fixie, but I find motorists are actually OK here with cyclists. THe bike lanes are another matter totally. The pavement is awful and I have never had so many flats! The trail that I can pick up at the Chedoke golfcourse is a godsend.

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