Swimming With Sharks

As Cityslikr rails at the world about the injustices inflicted upon the cyclist (Oops! There he goes now, on about #OccupyTO), I quietly type away in a small corner of the office, smug in my self-assurance of being more reasonable, less vitriolic, cool in my humours as Ben Jonson might say. Such incensed outbursts, viscerally generated confrontations only serve to further the divide and heighten the tension already existing between the two aggrieved parties. Vulnerable cyclists on one side. Put upon motorists on the other.

I too attended yesterday’s ghost ride in memory of Jenna Morrison. It was moving (no pun attended) but even more than that to someone not personally connected to her death, there was a feeling of empowerment. Thousands of cyclists taking charge of the city’s streets however fleetingly. (There’s another unintended pun in there somewhere.) Power in numbers. A critical mass.

Much of that sense was deflated later in the day when it was announced that no charges would be laid against the driver involved in the accident. Not that there was any cause for there to be. It seems the accident was just that. A horrible course of events involving misjudgement, perhaps, and unpreparedness for dealing with the contingencies of downtown driving that includes cyclists. Such things will happen, we are told. C’est la vie.

And at the end of the day

Might makes right and there’s no having to justify your actions. Today there’s been all sorts of second guessing of the victims operation of her bicycle in the situation, much of it stemming around her riding in the truck’s ‘blind spot’. Apparently it is just a fact of life that we have vehicles on our roads with gaping blind spots that everyone else should be aware of while sharing space with them.

That stops me up even just writing that. Wouldn’t a rational society look at that and come to the conclusion that something should be done to reduce vehicles’ blind spots or, at least, lessen the possibility of injuries and death because of it? Once more in reaction to the death of a cyclist, calls have gone up to install safety bars on trucks where pedestrians and those on bicycles could slip or be dragged under the wheels. A coroner called for just that in 1998. But we collectively shrugged our shoulders, bemoaned tying up the business of commerce in more red tape, and weighed the cost-benefit ratio of yet another dead cyclist. What are you going to do? It is what it is, right?

Similarly, it was noted by a police officer that the truck involved in last week’s accident didn’t have a convex mirror on the passenger side which may have reduced the ‘blind spot’ and even helped the driver spot the cyclist beside him. “It is not required by law,” said Constable Hugh Smith, “but I drive large trucks and train people and I wouldn’t go anywhere without a convex mirror on both sides.” Why wouldn’t that be mandatory for trucks instead of this laissez-faire attitude of lethal blind spots as just a part of doing business?

I’m not just talking about bicycle safety. It’s a public safety issue. And if governments aren’t going to act to ensure that, what about the courts? The civil courts. If governments fail to enact recommendations made by coroners, resulting in further deaths, is there a precedent in Canadian law to take them to court and sue them for something like negligence? (You might have noticed at about this point that I’m no lawyer.)

One death does not mean only one less bike rider on the road. It has a multiplier effect. Others will stop riding out of concern for their own personal safety. Certainly children won’t be encouraged to look at cycling as a viable mode of transit. That’s amplified if our elected officials are seen to be less than concerned about it. It’s pushed further out to the fringe. My heart bleeds for you and all that but, seriously, if want to stay safe out there on the roads, drive a car, a truck, the bigger, the better.

Who benefits from that?

submitted by Urban Sophisticat

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