Taking Back the Streets: Cyclist Memorials

We learned the hard way about a Toronto tradition for taking back the streets today- mass memorial rides for cyclists needlessly killed. Hubert Van Tol was a University of Toronto Professor and athlete- we rowed together on Lake Ontario (well, not quite together- he was twice as fast). Last Thursday a dumptruck turning right got him. This happens too often in Toronto (two cylists were killed on the same day) where the few bike lanes are full of cars and when it comes to enforcement, we quote Bob Dylan: "the cops don't need you and man, they expect the same". There are few North/South streets in the area of the accident and bike commuters are forced to use the ludicrously named Avenue Road, four fast-moving lanes, none for bikes- it just might slow down the rush hour traffic and we can't have that.

A Toronto group, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, organizes the rides- this was about their 35th. They usually start downtown and ride to the spot where the accident occurred. There were not a lot of people when we got there for the scheduled start, but our numbers grew.

We followed bike lanes as much as possible and a point was made of driving responsibly but asserting our rights- drivers were not happy with us filling the left turn lane here.

By the time we got to Cortleigh, we were at least a hundred strong, along with a lot of media, and, we were pleased to see, some of Hubert's family. Flowers were placed on the ghost bike, chained to the nearest telephone pole to the accident.

A little guerrilla theatre for the cameras and to make the point- a few minutes of silence while blocking a lane of traffic, exactly one week to the minute after the accident. Then they roll up the banner and back on the bikes, to prepare for another ride this evening for the other cyclist killed.

We had to ride south on Avenue Road, keeping as close to the curb as possible on one of the busiest streets in town in the middle of rush hour, wondering what kind of governments hypocritically promote cycling and then neglect to provide any decent routes; that refuse to demand sideguards on trucks like they do in the UK; that refuse to enforce the few rules about parking or driving in bike lanes; and that refuse to ban cell phone use while driving when 80% of accidents are caused by inattention of drivers. This is one "take back the streets" post I don't want to repeat, and have nothing but respect and admiration for ::ARC (advocacy for respect for cyclists) Imagine. Doing this twice in one day.

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