Jenna Morrison died on her way to pick up her 5 year-old son. His spiderman helmet was hanging from the handlebars of their tandem-bike that they were to ride away on together…
Instead, this vision of sustainable urban life and personal transportation turned to an instantly horrific tragedy – when the bike-for-two was crushed by the truck that took the life of a mother and her unborn child instead.
Yet life goes on, as some of us search for ways to bring meaning from such tragedy. Hopefully we can learn to see things abit more clearly on the road, before the impact of this moment subsides and we all return to our daily scramble through busy life in the city and the incident becomes just another fading memory.
So what are the crucial points that we can take from this, so that we can move forward with it all – with a renewed sense of safety and self-preservation?
As someone who has ridden one of those tandem (trail-a) bikes, I’ve also added my theory on a possible cause of this accident further below…Which anyone who rides these articulated/hinged bikes should take passing note of.
What Have We Learned
- Riding in the city requires constant presence of mind and vigilance
- We can’t depend on motorists to assure our personal safety on the road
- Simply wearing a helmet does not provide a rider with safety
- Being alongside traffic can be a huge risk at intersections
- If you can’t see the driver, then they probably can’t see you either
- Cyclists, like Pedestrians need to avoid taking any chances with traffic
- The safety of the Railpath needs to be extended down into the city’s core
- In Rob Ford’s rally cry to end the “War on Cars” he somehow overlooked the fact that there’s clearly only one side that’s suffering casualties
In an article in the National Post, Dr. Dan Cass, Ontario’s supervising coroner for the central region, said he will lead a review of all cycling deaths in Ontario in 2006-2010, as there have been over 20 per year.
“We’re taking the view that all cycling deaths are potentially preventable deaths,” Dr. Cass said Tuesday. “We are looking at time of day, road conditions, weather conditions, circumstances, what kind of preventive equipment was used. We want to develop recommendations based on preventing deaths in the future.”
This review process might be expected to move at the speed of public sector bureaucracy, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction and is in fact expected as soon as next Spring! In fact, if it turns out to be a clear and cogent view of urban cycling here in Toronto, this review could become an invaluable resource for both cycling advocates and city planners everywhere.
Where to Go From Here
The Jenna Morrison tragedy should be held up as an example of consequences for all of us – if we presume that helmets, regulations will keep us safe, while we continue to wait for seperate bike paths to materialize. Cyclists should be takign a proactive stance on their own personal safety, rather than expecting short-lived politicians decide the future of our urban transportation options.
So, as much as I’d like to make (yet another) case for to the health and cost benefits of cycling, perhaps we need to also take stock of ourselves and our cycling habits first. So that we can all take on a more responsible approach and credible voice in reforming our streets into a more sustainable city.
What do you think?
In the meantime…
It’s impossible to say who came up alongside who in this incident, but here’s what I strongly suspect actually happened to Jenna Morrison once she was alongside the truck that killed her, regardless of who got to the intersection first.
First of all, being on a bicycle alongside of a truck is at best a foolhardy scenario. One that should be avoided whenever possible. So any discussion about cycling safety needs to start with the most important point…Personal responsibility. Even if it means, lifting your bike up onto the sidewalk to get away from a truck if it has crowded in next to you at an intersection.
Ideally, cyclists should hold their place at an intersection by either taking their place in queue, making safe allowances for any right-turning traffic, or taking up a proper lane position in front to negate the crowding effect from any subsequent arrivals behind them if they are waiting to turn right themselves.
Otherwise, incidents like these could give rise to political conditions that might make it illegal for cars and bikes to sit next to one-another at intersections – and from there our already snarled traffic-patterns would become even worse, as we’re forced to queue-up behind each other in all circumstances instead.
As for what could have possibly happened in this particularly tragic case, I’d like to draw from my own experiences riding a “tandem” (trail-a) bike with my daughter years ago, as I suspect the following scenario may have been a factor – Which can only pray would NEVER befall anyone:
Based on police markers and the position of the crushed bike, this collision happened behind the stop line. Clearly the back wheel of an already lengthy tandem-bike got caught in the wheel of an advancing truck and tragically toppled the bike to the left, and killed the rider. A horrific forced-fall.
IF we can set-aside the possibility that the truck driver was entirely inexperienced or astoundingly negligent as he came up on the intersection from behind the bike, crowded it to the curb and simply mowed down the cyclist with it’s right-rear wheels by then taking a turn FAR too tightly, perhaps we can consider another possibility as well – in the interest of using this hypothetical scenario as a warning to all.
Just one theory…out of many
Regardless of who got the the intersection first, I strongly suspect that the rider may have realized that being alongside a truck was dangerous and started to back away from the intersection. But since backing a “trailer” is tricky and requires experience to not turn the back-end the wrong way…I fear that the rider may have simply rolled/turned the back of this hinged half-bike to the left and in front of the truck’s rear-wheels – just before it started to roll/lurch forward up the right-turning incline.
Of course there’s always the possibility that the driver was either grossly negligent or a homicidal maniac, or somehow couldn’t execute the most basic truck-driving skill by assuring that he takes the turn wide enough not to cause a collision on the inside corner.
Please keep in mind that this tragedy affects me deeply as someone who once rode with his child on a trail-a-bike as well, and now rides a tandem bike with his precious cargo. So I’m not trying to attribute blame, but rather emphasize the CRUCIAL need to take a defensive approach to cycling, regardless of what’s currently right or wrong about riding in our car-besieged city.
If anyone can suggest any other factors that we could consider here, in order to understand this event and lay some groundwork for both safer riding and driving for everyone, perhaps we could all move forward from this tragedy with a safer, more sustainable outlook on cycling in the city.
A Facebook group called “In Loving Memory of Jenna” has been created to honour the memory of Jenna Morrison and garner support for her 5-year-old son Lucas.