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A month after cyclist Jenna Morrison was crushed under the wheels of a truck as she rode to pick up her son from school last November, makeshift bicycle lanes popped up at the intersection where she died.
The work of guerilla art group the Urban Repair Squad, the lanes at Dundas and Sterling weren't sanctioned by the city and were soon removed. But now, permanent changes that will hopefully prevent other cyclists from losing their lives could be coming to the west-end crossroads.
City transportation staff are recommending traffic lights for the three-way intersection, as well as a "no right turn on red" restriction southbound on Sterling, and the installation of zebra stripe pedestrian crossings and a cyclist crossing. Sterling's "stop bar" will also be pushed back from the intersection, giving drivers better visibility.
Currently, the only traffic control measures are a stop sign on Sterling and a crosswalk on Dundas, which does have bike lanes in both directions.
The current configuration means drivers turning from Sterling have to creep forward and wait for a break in traffic, a task made tricky by poor sightlines on Dundas as the road rises over the Georgetown rail corridor. By giving drivers a specific time to turn, the traffic lights could prevent motorists from becoming distracted and keep them aware of cyclists and other road users.
The new safety measures, which would cost roughly $150,000, are being recommended even though the accident that killed Morrison was "a bit of an anomaly," according to Dan Egan, the city manager for cycling infrastructure.
"There aren't a lot of collisions, not to say there aren't a lot of close calls" at Dundas and Sterling, Egan says.
Staff looked into the possibility of installing a bike lane on Sterling, but decided against it because of the tight angle of the right turn.
"There's no way to make a bike lane that wouldn't be encroached on by a truck," Egan explains. "Large trucks turn wide at the front, and the back wheels always track closer to the curb. So to have a cyclist sitting in what looks like a safe place that might be encroached on by a truck is not really a great situation."
The proposed safety measures will go to the public works committee in September, and if approved, will be sent on to city council in October. In the long term, Egan says that the city is considering building a two-way cycle bridge over the rail corridor, but no work can begin until 2015, when Metrolinx is expected to finish track work for the Air Rail Link.
Andrea Peloso, a friend of Morrison's who organized the Safe Streets for Jenna campaign after her death, is encouraged by the proposed changes but says she's disappointed that the plans don't include a bike lane. She argues that because the intersection is near the terminus of the West Toronto Railpath bike trail and the entrance to an industrial district, trucks and bikes will continue to be brought into conflict, and something should be done to separate them.
"It's great, the changes that they're making," Peloso says. "But I think there should be a bike lane, and I think there should be a sign that says cyclists get right-of-way, so that if a truck and a cyclist are competing and they have to turn, [the driver waits] until the cyclist goes."
Peloso says it's heartening to see the city take actions following her friend's death, but she still believes it could have been prevented.
"Jenna's tragic death is a symptom of a country and a city and a province that have not fully embraced roads that everyone can share and use," she says. "I still have an ongoing concern and sense of loss over the fact that Jenna's death was basically needless."