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Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Cyclist Gary Sim was killed by a driver in July 2017, just a short distance from his home.  Today, the court ruled in this case, and the driver was fined the maximum penalty available under the law for the offence for which he was convicted: $500 for “turn not in safety”. 

Since her father’s death, Heather Sim has become an advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety, and is a member of Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

His widow, Angela Sim, has also ridden on many ghost bike rides since last year.

Although the penalty to the driver was ridiculously light, it was anticipated as current laws have numerous loopholes via which drivers who kill people can get off essentially scott free. This underlines, once again, the need for vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation. VRU legislation was recently introduced at the provincial legislature as a private member’s bill by NDP MPP Jessica Bell, a bill backed by many community organizations and more than 15,000 online supporters.

Thus far, the only reaction from the ruling PC party is: 

“This Bill was introduced this afternoon and we are still in the process of reviewing it,” said Andrew Koolsbergen, a spokesperson for Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek’s office, in a statement. “Our government is for the people and we will make sure that any Bills we support are aligned with that principle.”

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Today was a press conference held by MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) to announce the re-introduction of vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation as a private member’s bill. The event was held at the corner of King and Spadina, where the bus shelter told Edouard Le Blanc’s story.

She described the significance of the bill, and emphasized that road safety was not a partisan issue.

Next, Patrick Brown summarized some of the cases over the past few years where someone was killed and yet drivers would only get a relatively minor fine, and in many cases, no impact on their ability to continue driving.

He gave us some details on the bill:

  • it is more comprehensive than current legislation which focused rather narrowly on increasing penalties for the specific charge of careless driving.
  • it only  affects drivers who are convicted of a HTA offence that results in the death or serious injury of an VRU.
  • it requires a license suspension, driver education and public service.
  • it requires the offender to be in court to hear victim impact statements.

Additionally, there were several speakers who told their stories, or their families’ stories to the media.

Heather Sim told us about her father Gary, who was an avid cyclist and an advocate. The driver that killed him was charged with an improper turn, and was allowed to drive away from the site where he killed Gary. He was fined $500. In the fairly recent court case, the judge wanted to bring a higher penalty, but her hands were tied by legislation. Given the particular charge, the highest penalty available was $500. This illustrated one of the problems with the current system: although the penalties for “careless driving” are significantly more severe, in most cases, the charge is pled down to a lesser charge for which the penalty can be nominal. The threshold for being charged with “careless driving” is very high. She closed by saying that “My dad’s life was worth more than $500”.

Jess Spieker told us of the debilitating injuries that she suffered after being hit by a car. The driver was only fined $300. She turned her pain into action by continually advocating for safer streets on behalf of Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

Meredith Wilkinson was dragged under a truck and lost her leg. One again, the driver was only fined a small amount.

Katya Schmied told us about her sister-in-law, Kim Pape-Green, who was rushing home from work because her son had a minor accident at school. She commuted by public transit back to Newmarket from downtown. She got to within a kilometre of her home when she was run down by a driver on a foggy evening. There were no witnesses, and to this day, the driver refuses to give a statement to the police. The driver was not required to hear the victim impact statements from family members. She said that “We are not here for our family; we are here for your families so that you don’t have to go through what we have had to do”.

MPP Bell then thanked all the speakers, as well as the members of the groups that support the VRU legislation.

An image of the supporting groups was posted to Facebook.

RIP Edouard Le Blanc as well.

Update:

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Today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. For the second consecutive year, Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS) led a candlelight walk and vigil. We gathered at David Pecaut Square.

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Two members of FFSS, Jess Spieker and Yu Li, hold the banner.

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Councillor Joe Cressy talked to the media about the importance of Vision Zero. He also walked with us for the first half of the event.

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Today’s organizer Kasia Briegmann-Samson describes the route as we get ready to depart.

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Off we go. Much larger numbers than last year.

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Along Simcoe St.

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Under the railway tracks.

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Across Lakeshore.

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Along Queen’s Quay.

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Arriving at the Music Garden.

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Kasia talks about the theme of this year’s walk, which is that “Roads have stories“. Her clipboard has a picture of her late husband Tom.

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Jess Spieker talks about the debilitating injuries she suffering after being hit by a car.

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Meredith talks about being dragged under a garbage truck and losing her leg.

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This person told a heartbreaking story of how his friend Andre Alexander was hit, and then the driver got out to check him out, and rather than helping him, she drove off to let him die.

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I’m sorry but I was not able to get pictures of all the people who spoke tonight.

After a moment of silence and remembrance, the vigil was over.

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This coming Wednesday, FFSS will hold a media event at King and Spadina at 9 am. NDP MPP Jessica Bell will announce that she will bring re-introduce vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation as a private member’s bill. During the last session, the then Liberal Government turned it back in favour of their own, much less comprehensive legislation. We’ll see if the current government takes the issue seriously.

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If you are in favour of VRU, let your MPP know. For more information on VRU, go here.

 

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Last week a cyclist was killed at a GO Train level crossing at Steeles, just east of Kennedy Rd. Today was the ghost bike ride in his memory. At the time of this writing, we had no other information about the deceased.

Given that all seven riders at the start were among the usual suspects, no pre ride briefing was required. It was a bit chilly, but there was no wind. 26 km to the crash site.

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Off we go.

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On Bloor.

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Across the viaduct.

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On the Gatineau corridor.

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A brief stop at Warden to remember Edouard LeBlanc. His ghost bike was removed for the Pan Am Games, and we have intended to replace it. Sadly, Geoffrey has been too busy this year making new ghost bikes.

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Last bit of trail riding.

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Regrettably I was not able to take the time to ride all the way to the crash site. Here, the other six turn north on Kennedy.

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Here is one of Joey’s pictures from the crash site.

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(image source)

More pictures here:
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjoeys1%2Fposts%2F10157844428019046&width=500

Thanks to the six who rode until the end. That’s seven cyclists down this year just in the City of Toronto. Please no more.

It’s getting dark early now. Ride safe everyone.

Update: statement from Joey Schwartz:

Today’s Ghost Bike memorial ride for an unknown male cyclist, was one of the longest of the year. The ride occurred on the one-year anniversary of David Delos Santos’ memorial ride in Parkdale.

We passed one Ghost Bike that we recently erected for Dalia Chako at St. George at Bloor St (2018). Continuing on Bloor St West we went by the oldest Ghost Bike Memorial still existing, for Darcy Allen Sheppard (2009). On the way back, we passed by Adam Excell’s (2015) bike at Avenue Road at Davenport, it needs some touching up.

Besides those three bikes, we went by the locations of previous Ghost Bike Memorials that are no longer standing: Jack Roper (2011) Greenwood/Plains Ave; Unknown 71-year-old male (2014), Victoria Park at O’Connor Drive; Edouard Le Blanc (2014), Warden Ave on the Gatineau Trail; Henry Mejia (2013), Kennedy Rd at HWY 401; Unknown 54-year-old female (2010), Finch Ave east of Kennedy Rd; Richard Melvyn Curley (2009), West Don Trail.

Considering there was a cyclist killed at the next major railway crossing south of the memorial, back on 2 November 2010, not much has changed along this Stouffville rail corridor. Infrastructure changes that likely would have saved the latest cycling victim have been delayed for months, if not years. Only too typical an occurrence.

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A cyclist was killed this past Monday by a streetcar on Queen St. East. This was one of three recent, serious collisions involving streetcars and vulnerable road user, and has prompted an investigation by the TTC. This was the sixth cyclist death this year for the city of Toronto.

Today was his memorial ride. It started at Bloor and Spadina as per usual, and went along Bloor, down Sherbourne then east on Queen to the crash site.

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Joey gets us organized.

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Lining up and preparing to leave.

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Along Bloor.

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Down Sherbourne.

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Doug and Honey are faithful attendees.

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At the crash site.

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Geoffrey with the ghost bike.

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A moment of silence.

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A few decorations for the bike. A name plate will be added in due course.

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According to police accounts, Clint (age 61) was riding eastbound, lost control of his bike and hit a parked car, and then fell into the path of a streetcar. You can see how little room there is between the parked cars and the tracks.

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Clint was remembered by friends in this news clip

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1509437

May he rest in peace.

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Update: CTV news clip

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Today was the ninth anniversary of the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard, a bike messenger. A number of us gathered at the spot where he was killed by Michael Bryant, the former attorney general of Ontario. This is Bloor just east of Avenue Rd. on the south side, where he struck a mailbox while hanging onto the side of Bryant’s car for dear life.

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Wayne Scott has been the keeper of the flame, pressing for justice in this case. He had an updated placard for the ghost bike.

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A group picture of some of the gathering. A lot of the usual suspects in this photo. Hats off to you for keeping his memory alive.

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Rest in peace, Darcy Allan Sheppard.

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For more background on this case, go here.

Update:: Wayne Scott’s pictures here.

 

 

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Today was the 5th annual book ride put on by the Reading Line. This year’s theme was centred on the Bloor Viaduct, its history, the fact that it bridges different communities, and the fact that it is tied up with the experiences of different immigrants who make up the fabric of our city. We started our day in a courtyard on the grounds of Central Tech, near Bloor and Bathurst.

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Siva Vijenthira talked to us about her current and prior work with with various organizations like Cycle Toronto and Culture Link to encourage cycling among new immigrants and school groups in the city.

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Our first author reading was by Bethelem Terrefe Gebreyohannes who read from her debut book “Firewalkers” which is an account of her family’s escape from Ethiopia.

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The next reading was by Carrianne Leung who read from “That that time I loved you”, a series of interconnected stories about youth in Scarborough, under the shadow of a tragic event that happened in the neighbourhood.

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Next, Sarah Bradley from Cycle TO reminded us of the necessity for continuing advocacy for better cycling infrastructure.

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In the mean time, lead Joey Schwartz briefs the group of volunteer bike marshalls.

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Finally, our fearless leader Janet Joy Wilson starts getting the large crowd primed for the first segment of our ride, down Bloor to the Rosedale Valley School of the Arts.

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Joey gets the crowd energized.

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Lining up to leave.

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Along Bloor.

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One of our videographers was Kutaiba, who is a Syrian refugee. Motive transport was provided by Curbside Cycle, and motive power was provided by Geoffrey Bercarich.

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Chris Brunlett of Modacity and Janet Joy.

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I first met writer Amy Lavender Harris on the 2014 edition of the Reading Line book ride.

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Here we arrive at our second stop, a peaceful glade just south of Castle Frank subway station, on the grounds of the Rosedale Valley School of the Arts.

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Many of our announcements were also interpreted into ASL.

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Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8-80 cities, reminded us of the importance of making it easy for all ages to travel around the city. The vision statement of 8-80 cities:

“Whether you’re 8 or 80 years old, cities should work for everyone.”

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Chris and Melissa Brunlett told us of how they came to found Modacity, where they promote the benefits of walking, cycling and public transit. Melissa then read a short excerpt from their just released book “Building the Cycling City“.

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I asked Chris what he thought of the ride over, in particular the section of Bloor between Avenue Rd and Sherbourne. Suffice it to say that he was not impressed, and he said that he would definitely not be happy having his 12 year old daughter ride that route.

Our final speaker at this site was Ramón Pérez, a graphic novel artist who talked about being an immigrant, and finding his tribe among like minded artists here in Toronto. Drawing an analogy to the X -Men (the second group), he said that his groups’ superpowers were art. He is part of the Raid Studio, a group that encourages the next generation of comic book artists.

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Our next stop would be across the Bloor Viaduct, along the Danforth to East Lynn Park.

I think that the single most hazardous part of the ride is the east end of the viaduct where there is an offramp to the DVP. Here green paint is the only protection as cyclists have to navigate their way one lane over from the curb lane.

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Riding along the Danforth.

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I really liked the colorway of this Masi with 650b tires.

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Our final stop was East Lynn Park. I arrived a bit ahead of the main group and had the pleasure of listening to the tail end of a practice session by Wilson and the Castaways.

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There were many activities planned for the final stop, and some of this was made possible by “the Danny” AKA the Danforth Mosaic BIA.

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Geoffrey cooling his feet after an afternoon of piloting a very heavy cargo bike.

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Marvin Macaraig talked about the good work of Scarborough Cycles. I remember his talk from the last edition of the Reading Line, and one thing that stuck with me was the fact that there is only one bike shop in all of Scarborough. They run many bike related programs out of Access Point on Danforth, include community bike rides.

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Unfortunately at this point, I had to leave, so I was not able to hear the final two readings, as well as to see the other activities planned for the rest of the day.

As always, it was a pleasure to be part of the book ride experience. The event gets richer every year. I admire both the work of the many volunteers, as well as the tremendous energy of Janet Joy Wilson, who has been the driving force behind this event.

My reports on previous book rides:

2016 was the year I missed the ride, but you can read about Books on Bathurst at Dandyhorse Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

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