‘There must be a better way’: Chow says middle ground needed to prevent cyclist deaths

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says the city needs to find a solution that better protects cyclists, despite the often divisive debate over cycling in the city.

“I’m sure there’s a middle ground and I’m sure we can find a way forward,” Chow said at an unrelated news conference Friday morning when asked about the recent death of a cyclist in Scarborough.

The mayor said Scarborough residents have had a “challenging” time navigating a debate over cycling and whether to prioritize cyclist safety or keep more space for motorists.

A cyclist in his 50s died in hospital Monday after being struck by two vehicles earlier that day at the intersection of Birchmount Road and St. Clair Avenue East.

“I’m tremendously sad,” Chow said. “There has to be a better way to protect cyclists, but also so that drivers are not so traumatized. Because when the road is not designed well, cyclists and drivers cross paths and accidents happen and tragedies happen.”

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who chairs the Environment and Infrastructure Committee, also spoke to reporters and called the recent cyclist deaths “heartbreaking.”

“It is absolutely heartbreaking to have a death on our roads and so we are certainly all very sad to hear that another tragedy has occurred,” McKelvie said. “City staff watches very closely every time there is an incident to learn lessons, look at the road infrastructure in the area and see what improvements can be made.”

He noted that the city is investing $30 million in Toronto’s cycling network this year and added that a cultural shift is happening, which is key.

“However, one of the things that’s happening in Scarborough is that momentum is building around cycling and residents are starting to demand cycling infrastructure, which is good because that’s how we can be successful together,” McKelvie said.

He said the city’s response is “multifaceted” and includes building more bike lanes away from roads.

However, another event this week showed that changing the city’s road culture is a long-term process.

Cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto said earlier this week that a cycling consultation night at the Etobicoke Center on Wednesday “immediately descended into chaos.”

The video posted by the group allegedly showed a man saying he would like to “run over” cyclists on The Queensway who treat the road like it’s the “Tour de France.”

David Shellnutt, an attorney who specializes in representing cyclists, wrote an open letter Friday to Coun. Stephen Holyday, who hosted the town hall, claiming that the meeting “quickly devolved into an anti-cycling free-for-all where the public felt unsafe.”

He demanded to know why the person was not reprimanded at the meeting.

In a social media post, Cycle Toronto said “voters rejected the rhetoric of candidates who attempted to use bike lanes as a wedge issue” in the mayoral race last year.

“Overall, despite the outrage expressed, we know how popular improved cycle connections are across the city.”


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