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‘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 an often divisive debate over cycling in the city.

“I’m sure there’s a middle ground and I’m sure we can find a path 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 around cycling and whether cyclist safety should be prioritized, or maintaining more space for motorists.

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

“I’m tremendously saddened,” Chow said. “There must be a better way to protect cyclists, but also for the drivers to not be so traumatized. Because where the road is not designed well, cyclists and drivers intersect and accidents happen and tragedy happens.”

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

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to have any fatality on our roads and so we certainly are all very sad to hear another tragedy has happened,” McKelvie said. “City staff do look very closely anytime there is an incident to have lessons learned, to look at the road infrastructure in the area to see any improvements that can be made.”

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

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

She said the city’s response is “multifaceted” and includes building more dedicated cycle paths away from roads.

However another event this week proved that changing the road culture in the city is a long-term process.

Cycle advocacy group Cycle Toronto said earlier this week that a cycling consultation evening in Etobicoke Centre Wednesday “immediately devolved into chaos.”

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

David Shellnutt, a lawyer who specializes in representing cyclists, penned an open letter Friday to Coun. Stephen Holyday, who hosted the town hall, alleging that the meeting “quickly transformed into an anti-cycling free-for-all where members of the public felt unsafe.”

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

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

“Overall, despite the outrage on display, we know how popular improved cycling connections are across the city.”   

CP24 has reached out to Coun. Holyday for comment but has not heard back.

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