The emergency ward is where some cyclists end up after a clash with a car
Last week I was hit by a car while riding my bike. I was riding down a quiet, tree-lined street in Toronto's east end. My daughter was in her bike seat, situated in front of me. I saw a car pulling out of a laneway, the driver not looking in my direction.
I swerved, hit the brakes and turned my body so I could bear the brunt of the blow. The car, which wasn't going too fast, hit my knee (the same knee I slightly injured recently during a 16k race). I saw the driver's face turn pale, his wife was also in shock.
I looked down at my knee. No blood, wasn't twisted in some odd shape. Just hurt, much like smashing one's knee into a coffee table.
I asked the driver if he was okay, as tears looked imminent. He countered with the same question of me. We determined no harm done and I was on my way.
As I headed back home, I passed a parked car and almost got a door prize. This is when a driver opens his door in your bike path, you hit it and, depending on your speed, do a header over your handlebars. This time, I didn't swerve, worried about traffic behind me. I hit the brakes, heard the driver say "oh shit", and then saw him slam the door. All of this transpired in a matter of seconds.
All it takes is a matter of seconds to make a decision to irrevocably alter lives. Ontario's former Attorney General found that out on Monday. While I won't comment on the particulars of this story, since many details are still coming out, we know that through the actions of Michael Bryant, a cyclist named Darcy Allan Sheppard is dead.
Every day on the streets of Toronto, there are accidents. Cyclists and drivers, drivers and drivers, drivers and pedestrians, pedestrians and cyclists, choose your combination.
Just yesterday, as Toronto media was heavily invested in the Bryant story, three cyclists were involved in three separate collisions. One 20-year-old woman, almost the victim of a door prize, swerved and was hit by an oncoming vehicle. She is in serious condition. A man in his mid-twenties is also in serious condition after colliding with a streetcar. Later in the afternoon, a cyclist was hit by a car.
I've written about safe cycling and better policies for cyclists so many times on CityCaucus.com, that I was beginning to feel like I was repeating myself. But when will Toronto start implementing cycling right-of-way paths and not simply painted lines?
New York City, the second largest city in North America, has physically separated bike lines. And in the next two years, every other avenue will have a dedicated, right-of-way, bike lane. And every fifth cross-town street will be dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians only. This required political will to get this done. NYC has shown that political will.
We can do this in Toronto. No. We must do this in Toronto.
I am a cyclist but I am also a driver and a pedestrian. As a driver, I know that my vehicle will always win in a duel with someone on two wheels or two feet. As a cyclist, I know that I must obey the rules of the road, that I have to keep my temper in check when an idiot makes a turn without signaling or cuts me off, or pushes me to the side of the road. But I also know that I must cycle with caution.
Getting around Toronto on a bike is cheap, environmentally-sound, offers a great cardio workout and is relatively fast. But it has to be safe.
If any good is to come from the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard it's that Toronto will get serious about cycling safety.