Ryan Carriere, 1974-2005 Rating: NNNNN
The group gathering on the corner outside the Gladstone Hotel is swelling by the minute. Candles are being lit, blowing out in the evening breeze and being lit again. It looks like the whole neighbourhood's come out to honour Ryan Carriere, the cyclist killed here a week ago today when he was struck by a truck making a right turn and dragged under the wheels. I knew Carriere for seven years as my neighbour, the way you do when you share a walkway and a fence in need of repair. I didn't know he was a gifted comic book artist, that he made wonderful little books based on the natural world he came across in the backyards and laneways of Parkdale. The day before he was killed, he'd been here at the Gladstone, selling his work at Canzine.
We're waiting on the cyclists coming over from City Hall so the vigil can begin. They arrive in good form with a clanging of bells, lay their bikes down on the spot where the accident happened and once again unroll the banner: A Cyclist Was Killed Here.
We number in the hundreds by now and spill onto Queen, closing down the intersection. It's pretty amazing.
I didn't feel much like cycling across Queen in rush hour in the dark. I'm sad, scared and really, really angry.
Our city has failed absolutely to make our streets safe for cyclists. Our bike lanes are ineffectual. Stopping lines at intersections aren't clearly marked. And we're still waiting for the city to act on the coroner's recommendation for safety skirts on trucks a recommendation that came out of the death of another young cyclist a year and a half ago.
Carriere made the ride along Queen every day to and from his job as a letter carrier at the Dovercourt postal station. It's four blocks, five minutes at most. It was a clear afternoon, and he was heading home to help his daughters Minnow, eight, and Plum, five, get ready for Halloween.
He cycled because he cared about the planet. He was a tree planter and an enthusiastic grower of luscious-looking green beans.
One time he and the girls came over to my yard to help free a possum that had a grocery bag wrapped around its neck. The possum ended up in his book Animals We Have Known.
Cyclists in Toronto are also becoming an endangered species. And until we're willing to give up the automobile as our sacred cow and build dedicated bike paths along major streets, they're going to keep getting killed.
And we're going to have to keep meeting like this. "Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!" we call out to the ringing of bicycle bells. "We'll miss you!"