Coroner to review Ontario cycling deaths
The first ever province-wide review of cycling fatalities will examine all deaths between 2006 and 2010.
By: Brendan Kennedy Staff Reporter, Published on Tue Oct 25 2011
It was still light out when Ryan Carriere was killed on Oct. 31, 2005, while riding his bicycle on Queen St. W. He was wearing a helmet, cycling in the curbside lane and obeying all traffic laws when a large truck turned in front of him.
Carriere, 31, and on his way home to take his two young daughters out trick-or-treating, was struck by the side of the commercial hauling truck and dragged into its undercarriage.
“He was in exactly the right place for a cyclist to be on the road . . . and yet he was still killed,” said Carriere’s widow, Megan Holtz, who has not been able to get back on her own bike since her husband’s death. “I don’t know that I will ever ride a bike again in this city.”
On Monday, Ontario’s chief coroner announced that his office will investigate five years’ worth of cycling deaths in the province with the hope of preventing deaths like Carriere’s while also making the roads safer for people like Holtz.
The first ever province-wide review of cycling deaths will examine fatalities from 2006 to 2010, try to identify common factors and make recommendations to prevent future deaths. Coroner’s inquests do not assign blame or make any judicial findings.
Although Carriere’s death will not be included in the coroner’s review, it helped provide a spark by inspiring lawyer Patrick Brown to take up cycling safety as a personal pursuit. It was Brown — along with fellow lawyer and cycling advocate Albert Koehl — who led a coalition of Toronto-based cyclists’ and seniors’ groups to petition the coroner to undertake this review.
“I committed to that family that once the civil case was done I would take steps to try to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Brown said Monday, explaining how he became involved in the issue.
Brown and Koehl actively lobbied the coroner’s office and the pair also co-wrote an op-ed piece in the Star in August urging the coroner to examine the deaths.
“That spurred us on for sure,” said Dr. Dan Cass, the Toronto coroner charged with leading the review.
About 15 to 20 cyclists are killed on Ontario roads every year, with roughly one-quarter to one-third of the fatalities occurring in the Greater Toronto Area.
Although cycling deaths have been relatively stable over the past 10 years, Cass said the review is necessary because there are more cyclists on the road than ever before and greater interest in sustainable forms of transportation.
A similar coroner’s review of 38 cycling deaths in Toronto over an 11-year period was completed in 1998. That review led to a number of cycling initiatives in the city, including the Bike Plan, a network of cycling lanes and the establishment of the cycling advisory committee, which was disbanded earlier this year.
But that review also made recommendations that were never implemented, such as amending the Highway Traffic Act to address the specific needs of cyclists and making it mandatory for all large trucks to be fitted with side guards — as they are in the United Kingdom — which Holtz believes would have “definitely” saved her husband’s life.
But cycling advocates were hopeful on Monday that a coroner’s review will provide hard-science support for improving cycling infrastructure and safety.
“This is an opportunity to take a critical, clinical, evidence-based look at what these tragedies have in common and how we can begin to close the gap,” said Eleanor McMahon, who founded Share the Road after her husband, OPP Sgt. Greg Stobbart, was killed while cycling off-duty. “I know my husband would be pleased.”
McMahon said she hoped the review would rise above the often politicized and polarizing discussion of cycling to provide instructive solutions to politicians and policy-makers.
Dr. Cass said in addition to examining the deaths, the coroner’s office will also seek the public’s input.
“The data and the hard science part of it is one thing,” he said. “But I think people’s observations and thoughts are very valuable as well, so we really encourage the public’s involvement in this, too.”
Comments and recommendations must be made in writing before Nov. 30, 2011, and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Dan Cass, Office of the Chief Coroner, 26 Grenville Street, Toronto, ON, M7A 2G7.
Cyclists injured every day in the city of Toronto
Cyclists killed so far this year in the GTA
Cyclists killed in the GTA since 2006
GTA cycling deaths
2011 — 5
2010 — 6
2009 — 2
2008 — 6
2007 — 5
2006 — 4
Source: The Star