The disconnect between drivers and cyclists

Toronto is in need of a major culture upgrade for the sake of cyclists and commuters

The disconnect between drivers and cyclists

The common portrayal of cyclists in downtown Toronto is that of a careless and reckless lot: dipping in and out of traffic, passing stop lights and stop signs, and wreaking havoc on our roads. Living in the city does not instill a fear of cars, but of bicycles. Even so, to force the brunt of the burden for accidents and fatalities on the road onto cyclists is unfair.

Toronto drags behind other cities in road safety because it lacks a vibrant cyclist culture that can coexist with motor transportation. Recently, Dalia Chako, 58, was fatally struck by a truck driver while making a turn on Bloor and St. George.

According to CBC News, her son, Skylor Brummans, “believes the truck driver involved… just wasn’t looking for cyclists during [the] turn, which led to the collision.” Although cyclists are present in the downtown area, their presence is often not thought of as part of our urban space.

This incident shows the large disconnect between cyclists and drivers in Toronto. This mental block is what deters both sides from taking caution on the roads, and adds to the lack of progress in funding and infrastructure necessary to create a safer space for everyone.

In 2016, John Tory announced a new “comprehensive” safety plan called Vision Zero, which aims to reduce “traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on the streets of Toronto” from 2017 to 2021. Just over two years since this plan was announced, the administration has failed to make vital improvements to not only the infrastructure of the city, but also relationships on the road.

The failure to make any noticeable improvements on the state of traffic-related fatalities in the city of Toronto has caused an uproar, and despite promises to improve road safety for Toronto cyclists, this year has been one of the deadliest for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Toronto falls behind cities such as New York, which has made drastic investments in infrastructure to reduce the number of collisions and drivers on the road. In the past four years, New York has significantly reduced its number of pedestrian deaths. An investigation conducted by the Toronto Star revealed that the measures outlined in Toronto’s unrealized plans for road safety parallel the successful actions taken by New York to safeguard its cyclists: “redesigned roads and narrowed lanes to slow down traffic; increased use of bicycle lanes; reduced speed limits and increased pedestrian crossings and markings.”

How has New York, a city much larger, more populous, and more chaotic than Toronto, surpassed us in safety and reconstruction?

Toronto needs to follow New York’s example with a major upgrade to meet the demands of its growth. Physical and mental coexistence between pedestrians, cyclists, and cars on our roads is vital to the transformation of the Toronto city space. We therefore need to change our mental attitude and demand space for a safe and effective cycling culture, especially given its benefits.

As an aerobic activity, cycling is a full-body workout that benefits those who spend much of their working and leisure time sedentary. By pushing cycling as a vital activity integral to the urban lifestyle, people are encouraged to be more active rather than exercising as an afterthought or hobby. Exercise is also linked to improvements in mood through the release of endorphins, providing some relief from the mental health crisis present in society.

While some may argue that cycling gear and upkeep is costly, Toronto’s ubiquitous bike sharing stations help alleviate that cost. Otherwise, cycling also cuts the financial and environmental costs of gas. which the city can further reduce by making public transportation more accessible and cheaper.

It is true that many cyclists are not cautious on the road, and reminding drivers of a presence that is given little voice or attention on the streets of Toronto is hard. The solution requires an investment in infrastructure and funding that asserts cyclists’ presence and equal rights to the road. We need better infrastructure, not just for the sake of cyclists and pedestrians, but for all commuters.

Rehana Mushtaq is a third-year English and Religion student at University College.

UPDATED: Several buildings at UTSG on lockdown after reports of armed person

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders confirms one person in custody, convocation unaffected

Update (June 13, 4:49pm): The lockdown has been lifted for all buildings on campus.

Several buildings centred around the north-eastern part of campus are on lockdown after Toronto Police received calls about a suspicious person at 9:30 AM.

The following buildings continue to be on lockdown as Toronto Police continue its investigation:

  • Falconer Hall — 84 Queen’s Park
  • Faculty Of Law — 78 Queen’s Park
  • Faculty Of Music: Edward Johnson Building — 80 Queen’s Park

Those who are already in these buildings are being asked to remain inside until the all-clear has been given.

Earlier today, the lockdown extended to more buildings on campus. The following buildings are no longer closed:

  • Trinity College — 6 Hoskin Avenue
  • Munk School Of Global Affairs — 1 Devonshire Place
  • Gerald Larkin Building — 15 Devonshire Place
  • Varsity Centre — 299 Bloor Street West
  • All buildings affiliated with Victoria University

In addition, Queen’s Park Crescent between Bloor Street and Hoskin Avenue remain closed off. The TTC has also announced that subways are also bypassing Museum station.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters that police has seen a photo of a “male subject, dressed in all black with a black knapsack and a mask” with reports of this person armed with a gun.

An arrest was also made, but Saunders said that the suspect in custody is “not the same likeness” as the person in the photo,  and declined to elaborate further

“We’re making sure we’re clearing as best to our abilities, utilizing our tactical officers, as well as our dogs to ensure we can maximize the safety of everybody here,” said Saunders.

Convocation for Rotman Graduate students was unaffected by the lockdown. Convocation for St. Michael’s College students will also go on as planned.

“We have no reason to believe there will be any safety concerns during convocation,” said U of T president Meric Gertler, in his convocation address for Rotman students.

This story is developing, more to follow.

Update (June 13, 12:08pm): This story has been updated to include comments from Mark Saunders and Meric Gertler.

Update (June 13, 2:24pm): The list of buildings under lockdown has been updated.