Jenna Morrison’s tragic fall under the wheels of a truck in 2011 didn’t mark the end of her personal legacy within all of the communities that she touched while alive. In fact, that one terrible moment seems to have marked the spread of even wider awareness for all the matters of health and well-being that she held close to her heart. This lasting legacy took tangible form on Saturday July 26, 2014, with the opening of a commemorative Reflexology Footpath at Dufferin Grove park. As Torontonians, we now have a wonderfully serene new space in which to reflect upon ourselves, our personal well-being, and our collective place within the city around us. But again, this should just be another beginning.
Although this impressive memorial offers closure and comfort to her family, in the final realization of one of Jenna’s great dreams as an aspiring health practitioner, it also represents the start of an ongoing journey. This beautiful new park feature is formed around a carefully designed walkway that follows the path of an ‘infinity’ symbol. Reminding us of the ongoing journey that we all experience as a collective of citizens in a great city. A reminder that the healing power within ourselves is also supported by the city around us – and that there’s so much more to explore in this ongoing journey.
So despite the closing of this particular chapter for Jenna’s bereft family, the commemoration ceremony reminded us that there’s still so much more work to be done around the terrible circumstances of her death as well. Not only for those who continue to raise public awareness around cyclist and traffic safety, but most especially those who are also seeking out clear, realistic and actionable solutions to these very complex issues, in order to actually effect positive change once a critical mass of awareness is achieved.
Can Issues be De-Politicized for Greater Effect?
In Jenna’s memory, it behooves us to not simply let these issues turn into political footballs, rally-cries for advocates, or simply historical footnotes. Rather we could also expand their utility, and hold them as ongoing focal points that guide us through the complexities and more meaningful forms of debate and action that could possibly lead to results.
Of course, everyone realizes that achieving greater road safety in a over-congested city isn’t as simple as proposing a new law, or putting signs or paint-marks on a road. Torontonians are seeking ways to live in a more healthy and sustainable city, and we already know that we need to look more carefully for the actual sources of issues, rather than just trying to mitigate the negative effects wherever they arise to prominence.
To do so in this case, we’ll need to open up the scope around traffic and safety issues to include the needs and challenges of all stakeholders, not just the special interests of vocal groups or individuals. Using our communications channels to present and consider the types of options that can enable governments, industry, and communities to all come together around usable info and shared ideas. Presenting the smaller tactics that can support bigger strategies, without getting road-blocked behind things like stalled parliamentary bills, or the limited effects of street-demonstrations.
Not only looking at what’s been done, but what’s also still required to enact meaningful change. Councillor Ana Bailao speaks to this from the point of view of liveable cities and municipal government to start the inauguration ceremony, as she presents both Jenna’s dream, as well as a larger civic vision that we can all take part in collectively.
As Councillor Ana Bailao said in her opening speech last Saturday, we have to be more conscious and alerted to our surroundings. This type of shared awareness and responsibility extends far beyond road safety, into the very nature of civic life and our engagement as citizens. It’s not enough to wait for politicians to move a ball down-field, or for industry to discover a business case that can benefit us all.
“Today we’re putting together another dream of another citizen of ours, and that’s what cities need to make sure they continue to do, we need to facilitate that…Today we open the doors to have more of those dreams come true” ~ Toronto City Councillor Ana Bailao
Unfortunately, the dialogue around truck-safety on our city streets is at risk of becoming silo’d into competing interests. Politicians curry favour with inflated claims of “wars on cars” being waged, or with token gestures for cyclists and pedestrians. Others simplistically claim that big business resists any change that raises costs. Pundits assert that our regulators are more responsive to corporate interests than the needs of citizens. Meanwhile the businesses who operate the engines of our economy need to see clear info, useful reporting and sustainable models – not emotional appeals, or easy comparisons to countries who’s circumstances don’t match our own. So rather than getting into camps over these tough issues, let’s consider looking for the common ground among all stakeholders, and working towards clarity and consensus that can be built upon. Rather than getting entrenched in the rhetorical positions that usually only serve one side of multi-faceted issues.
Where Should We Look
for Answers on Road Safety?
- Grassroots Advocacy
- City of Toronto
- Federal Politics
- Trucking Industry
- Personal Safety Initiatives
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Olivia Chow was present at Saturday’s commemoration, with aides wearing her mayoral campaign colours, representing her long-held political views on cycling safety and mandatory sideguards for trucks in the GTA. Chow was thanked during Councilor Ana Bailao’s opening speech, for “her work as an MP, in pushing that forward”. See “Federal for more info on this.
Looking to: Grassroots Advocacy
SafeTrucks is a great example of average citizens working to raise a public profile for these issues, and helping citizens address their concerns on the matter to the proper level of government. Though it would seem
gathering resources and recommendations from around the rest of the world to demonstrate how truck sideguards are currently being developed abroad. Most importantly Safetruck tries to keep abreast of what new designs are being rolled out by manufacturers.
Unfortunately, the site is in need of some maintenance and even though they were responsive via Twitter, they need to take out the outdated info about Olivia Chow’s petition and bill c-344 which has apparently been replaced by a more recent motion.
SafeTrucks.ca also doesn’t offer immediately clear distinctions on the functional differences between structural collision guards on trucks, and the more common aerodynamic fittings (for fuel efficiency) that serve minimal safety purposes. One has to dig into the industry-related materials to learn of such critical differences. This leaves the casual reader to deduce that aero-fittings provide minimal safety in most road collisions, and may even act as a hazard to cyclists or pedestrians who can get snared by leading edges.
It’s understandable why the fuel-savings of these aero-fittings is being included in the grass-roots call for sideguards, in order to offer a wider reasoning for their practical or cost-saving use. However this approach fails to address a huge component of existing trucking-industry safety concerns, which also include motor-vehicles. These fittings are also only beneficial to vehicles that primarily move above 70kmh, and actually reduce fuel mileage on city-driven vehicles with their added weight. Unfortunately, it is this type of ‘cyclist and pedestrian-focused’ advocacy that can limit the effectiveness of the message, since it only speaks to a segment of the population, while alienating the people who can clearly see the situation from an industrial or business POV, and who are in a much better position to move the issue forward.
The key to moving this grassroots advocacy forward might be to also look at ALL of the the industrial challenges that are being faced around trucking road safety to see where cyclists and pedestrians fit into the picture, rather than accidentally casting themselves as a special interest group with a hyper-focused mandate that doesn’t address needs in a much bigger picture. Surely we don’t need to look at the negative stereotypes around urban cyclists who expect the rules of the road to change to serve only their own needs.
The key here is to look at the much larger issues of motor-vehicle collisions with trucks and include stakeholders such as the insurance companies, the health and rescue professionals, regulators and lawmakers, and of course the primary manufacturers. This last point is very important, because trying to forcefully mandate sideguards in a country where almost ALL trucks are manufactured in the US or overseas, is just another example of political myopia. Only the lightest and least effective guards can be readily added on as retrofits to existing trucks. Stronger, more collision-resistant guards require the involvement of the original equipment manufacturer, and both politicians and advocates need to be aware of such industrial realities.
Looking to: The Federal Government
While serving as MP for Trinity Spadina, Chow had previously tabled a private members bill, after Morrison’s death in 2011, which failed to pass, despite popular support among cyclists and other grass-roots advocates. Although the SafeTrucks site still shows links to Chows defunct C-344 bill, they assured via Twitter that Chow’s bill has since been re-introduced by NDP Transport Critic MP Hoang Mai. Tweets of enquiry to @OliviaChow @Hoangmai_NDP asking about the name and status of this new bill have not met with any replies however.