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Cyclist on the sidewalk
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A cyclist blasts through a red
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Red light, yellow light
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Over the line
The intersection at Dundas and Huron is a tricky one.
Huron is one way going north and one way going south at the intersection, which means there are no lefts or right turns onto Huron from Dundas.
Smack dab in the middle of Chinatown, the flow of traffic - car, bike and pedestrian - is constant. There isn't a time of day when cars aren't sneaking through yellows, or pedestrians jumping greens and, yes, cyclists (sometimes) taking to the sidewalks.
To add to the snarl, grocers park on both sides of Dundas close to the intersection to unload their fruits and veggies. The traffic lights at the intersection change quickly, to allow traffic to keep moving on Dundas so it doesn't get bottlenecked at Spadina.
Last Tuesday morning, a 56-year-old woman walking eastbound on the south side of Dundas at Huron was struck and hit by a cyclist.
It's unclear how fast the cyclist was traveling, but police report the woman falling, hitting her head and suffering life-threatening injuries - a fractured skull. Thankfully, she will survive.
The public outrage was immediate, much of that focused on the fact the cyclist involved, who was charged with careless driving, walked away from the incident with a mere $400 fine.
Not exactly. The cyclist involved still faces the possibility of a six-month jail term, the maximum allowed under the Highway Traffic Act, if he was charged under what's known as Part III of the act. Toronto police corporate communications were unable to tell me for sure Friday if that's the case. I'll let you know when I know.
But let's not let the details get in the way of a little public hysteria. Within 48 hours of the incident, police announced stepped up enforcement on cyclists.
The accident (can I call it that?) has become a flashpoint for anti-bike sentiment, maybe even a watershed moment for cycling in the city, especially in the context of the shit coming down the pipe at City Hall on the subject of transportation on two wheels.
In the cars versus bikes versus pedestrians debate that seems to be all the road rage these days, the summer of 2011 is shaping up to be a very bad one for those who prefer to get around on two wheels.
The incident at Huron and Dundas has unleashed the kind of backlash against cyclists that those infamous photos of the sleepy conductor did against the TTC.
And just as in the case of the sleepy conductor - the guy nodded off because he had a heart condition - important details either lost or twisted in the reporting of this case have given the accident a decidely different blush, and caused many to jump to conclusions.
As usual the provocateurs on right-wing talk radio are leading the charge in shaping broader public sentiment, calling for the licensing of cyclists. Funny how those usually agitating for less government now want to create more bureaucracy to rein in supposedly crazy cyclists.
The police, though, must share some of the blame for feeding the public's anger.
The initial press release issued by the cops says the cyclist crashed into the woman while she was "crossing within the crosswalk at Huron Street with the appropriate signal." The operative word here being "crosswalk."
English is not my first language, so I may be missing something, but there is no "crosswalk" at Dundas and Huron, at least, not in the conventional sense of the term - the kind with clear white markings on the road and lights overhead that can be turned on by a push of the button.
"Crosswalk" is police speak, the technical term for intersection in the Highway Traffic Act. A crosswalk is a "pedestrian crossover" in the HTA. The term "highway" doesn't mean highway at all in the HTA, as in hundreds of cars traveling at breakneck speed. It's the term for a regular road. Got it?
How many of us when we first heard the crosswalk reference in media reports jumped to the conclusion that some road warrior in tights and shades who makes a habit out of riding roughshod over the rules of the road was at the helm when the accident occurred? I know I did.
The impression left by the "crosswalk" term in media reports is that the cyclist in the Huron mash-up, all we now about him is that he's 49, was being so reckless that he zoomed right through what is the most sacred of pedestrian ground - the aforementioned crosswalk - when he mowed the poor woman down.
Not to diminish the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the woman involved, but the cops who investigated the incident obviously didn't think the cyclist had any intent to injure, otherwise he would have been charged with a Criminal Code offense.
It's not clear whether the cyclist ran a red, as has been widely assumed.
When I ask Constable Victor Kwong of Toronto police corporate communication about this, he tells me he doesn't know for sure, he just assumed that to be the case, like the rest of us, despite the police release citing that the woman was crossing "with the appropriate signal."
It would stand to reason that the cyclist would be charged with running a red, and for riding the wrong way down a one-way street, as has also been reported, if in fact that's what happened. But there have been no charges on either count, at least not yet.
We haven't heard all the facts. Is licensing cyclists the answer? I doubt it, but maybe, if the money raised from fees were put back into building more cycling infrastructure. But that seems too much to ask given how short we've fallen on the bike plan envisioned for the city more than a decade ago.
We've taken what scraps we've been given on the cycling front over the last 10 years, and as a consequence, have been left with a system of bikes lanes that's not truly connected and less safe for all.
Looked at that way, is it a stretch to suggest the city is complicit in the accident at Dundas and Huron?
By not committing to a plan that truly incorporates bikes into the transportation mix - like bike lanes on all arterials - we've increased our dependence on the car and opted to make he city less safe.
Respect is a two-way street. Maybe if the city showed a little more respect for cyclists by cutting a little more space on our highways and byways for those on two wheels, there'd be fewer forced to break or bend the rules. And fewer tragedies like the one at Dundas and Huron.
The current administration at City Hall, however, is headed in the opposite direction - removing bike lanes already in place and relegating bike paths to ravines, and thereby confining bikes to a status as recreational vehicle, as opposed to a mode of transport that needs to be taken seriously.