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When Driver Kills Cyclist, Media Shrugs… 21

Jack Roper Toronto Cyclist

Screenshot from InsideToronto.com article on 84-year-old Jack Roper, the cyclist killed last Friday

On July 5th, a cyclist struck and critically injured a pedestrian in Toronto. The pedestrian survived, but this incident set off a flurry of media rage against cyclists. The Toronto Star’s first report on the incident (“Cyclist fractures pedestrian’s skull, gets $400 fine”) called for increased fines for cyclists and listed the number of tickets given to cyclists from 2008 to 2011.

A follow-up article in the Toronto Star by Jack Lakey chastised all cyclists (which we covered last month):

“By assigning themselves all the rights of pedestrians, and all the privileges of drivers, they consider the street an exclusive domain, where rules apply only to drivers who infringe on their space.

It breeds a complacency that lulls cyclists into believing they could never be the author of misfortune, and that nothing bad can happen, unless it happens to them and is caused by a driver.”

On July 6th, the Toronto Sun posted an article calling for cyclists to require licenses to be allowed to ride:

“It’s time cyclists were licensed just like drivers.

Maybe then they would take the rules of the road more seriously. Maybe then they would think twice before they mow down a pedestrian while riding the wrong way on a one-way street.”

“Too many riders seem to feel they have the God-given right to bike however they want with no regulation or rules whatsoever. But that kind of recklessness can be deadly. Two years ago, a woman was killed in Scarborough after she was hit by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk.”

Since the July 5th incident, the Toronto Police have been performing “safety” blitzes targeted at cyclists – handing out fines for traffic offenses and for not having bells or proper lighting.

Meanwhile, in the same area where the police were “blitzing” cyclists and pedestrians last week, an 84-year-old bicyclist was sadly struck and killed by an 81-year-old driver last Friday morning.

The Globe & Mail reported that the cyclist “collided with a car” (even though the cyclist was pinned underneath the car and the car had to be lifted off him before rushing him to the hospital).

Instead of calling for more police blitzes on cars, the National Post reported that the cyclist “apparently collided with a Toyota Corolla travelling southbound in the intersection”, followed by this paragraph:

“Police had been conducting a cycling safety blitz days earlier in the east end, pulling over cyclists at Broadview and Danforth avenues on Wednesday and Thursday to check for proper safety equipment and ensure cyclists were following the rules of the road.”

Just in case the statement that the cyclist “collided” with the car doesn’t lay blame squarely on the cyclist, the Toronto Star makes sure to mention that the 84-year-old cyclist *was not* wearing a helmet.

In its reporting on the cyclist death, the Toronto Star made nary a mention about how many tickets were given to motorists this year. None of the major media outlets called for lowering speed limits on our streets or for targeting motorists who roll through 4-way stops like the one where the 84-year-old was killed.

The Toronto Sun didn’t bother to explain how a *licensed* 81-year-old motorist could have killed a cyclist.

They did however take the time to explain that police issued 363 tickets to cyclists and pedestrians, “ranging from jaywalking and equipment offences to violations under the Highway Traffic Act” after a two day blitz last week.

Over at iBikeTO, Herb puts it aptly:

“Why is it when once every two years a cyclist is involved in an incident with a pedestrian that so many people have solutions looking for a problem (as in the case of licensing), but no one considers that there may be solutions to prevent 84-year olds from being hit or run over by cars? There is certainly a bias that normalizes death by car as just part of a modern society, but perhaps we also can’t apply simplistic solutions like licensing to drivers because in theory the driver already has a licensing. I’m waiting for us to start waking up to the fact that we need to slow down cars, stop considering speeding cars as danger-free, and stop treating death by car as normal.”

Even though the police have been unable to determine whether the driver or the cyclist was at fault, the media didn’t hold back on its arsenal of victim-blaming techniques to imply that the cyclist was probably at fault.

But one thing we do know about this collision is that the cyclist ended up on the underside of the automobile. If the cyclist in fact “collided with the car” (and not the other way around), then would he have ended up underneath the car? Not very likely.

Feel free to come to your own conclusion.

Members of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) will be holding a memorial ride for Jack Roper on Friday August 12th at 8:00AM.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Montrealize

    A classic.
    We’re not done with any of these…

  • Montrealize

    A classic.
    We’re not done with any of these…

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com Micheal Blue

    Perhaps it’s because the human mind tries to protect what it holds dear at almost any cost. Cars are so convenient, so addictive. Not only that, they also make (or can make) people feel more “powerful”. It’s no surprise that people try to protect the image. Also, car accidents happen every day…news?…what news? But hey, a (serious) bike accident? There is a juicy drama for the shallow journalists.

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com/ Micheal Blue

    Perhaps it’s because the human mind tries to protect what it holds dear at almost any cost. Cars are so convenient, so addictive. Not only that, they also make (or can make) people feel more “powerful”. It’s no surprise that people try to protect the image. Also, car accidents happen every day…news?…what news? But hey, a (serious) bike accident? There is a juicy drama for the shallow journalists.

  • Sheenaghm

    On another note … article I just saw – will be interseted to see what the ACTUAL sentence is as it is USUALLY the least they can impose: http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1037516–guilty-verdict-for-man-who-hit-cyclist-leaving-him-partially-blind?bn=1

  • Sheenaghm

    On another note … article I just saw – will be interseted to see what the ACTUAL sentence is as it is USUALLY the least they can impose: http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1037516–guilty-verdict-for-man-who-hit-cyclist-leaving-him-partially-blind?bn=1

  • Gclarke

    Perhaps I’m reading a different article in InsideToronto.com -

    It states -

    “Roper was riding his grey and purple bicycle westbound on Plains, on his way to a grocery store, when a 2007 Toyota Corolla heading south on Greenwood collided with him at 9:02 a.m.

    Roper was thrown onto the car’s hood and then rolled off, coming to rest underneath the vehicle.”

    This doesn’t assign blame and appears to clarify how he ended up under the car.

    Your statement; “The only way to get pinned on the underside of an automobile is for an automobile to run squarely into the cyclist.” is without merit.

    • Rain Panther

      I was kind of thinking the same thing. I don’t find it all that difficult to envision other scenarios wherein a cyclist winds up under a car. I think Mr. Schwartz makes some solid points, but sometimes that big swing for the fences that’s supposed to drive a point home just winds up going foul.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      To avoid any further confusion, I changed “The only way to get pinned on the underside of an automobile is for an automobile to run squarely into the cyclist” to: “If the cyclist in fact “collided with the car” (and not the other way around), then would he have ended up underneath the car? Not very likely.”

      The point was that the mainstream media (not InsideToronto.com) was implying that the cyclist ran into the car.

  • Gclarke

    Perhaps I’m reading a different article in InsideToronto.com -

    It states -

    “Roper was riding his grey and purple bicycle westbound on Plains, on his way to a grocery store, when a 2007 Toyota Corolla heading south on Greenwood collided with him at 9:02 a.m.

    Roper was thrown onto the car’s hood and then rolled off, coming to rest underneath the vehicle.”

    This doesn’t assign blame and appears to clarify how he ended up under the car.

    Your statement; “The only way to get pinned on the underside of an automobile is for an automobile to run squarely into the cyclist.” is without merit.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com Mr.S.

    Living in Tokyo now, but when I live in Toronto I do ride a bike. I do ride, however, with the full apprehension that only I care about my life in traffic: few drivers show any concern. I also discourage my wife, who grew up riding in Tokyo which has a fraction the traffic deaths per capita that Toronto has, from riding in Toronto at all. As for when my infant kid starts to bike: mtn biking only, because he’s supposed to bury me, not the wrong way around.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/ Mr.S.

    Living in Tokyo now, but when I live in Toronto I do ride a bike. I do ride, however, with the full apprehension that only I care about my life in traffic: few drivers show any concern. I also discourage my wife, who grew up riding in Tokyo which has a fraction the traffic deaths per capita that Toronto has, from riding in Toronto at all. As for when my infant kid starts to bike: mtn biking only, because he’s supposed to bury me, not the wrong way around.

  • Rain Panther

    I was kind of thinking the same thing. I don’t find it all that difficult to envision other scenarios wherein a cyclist winds up under a car. I think Mr. Schwartz makes some solid points, but sometimes that big swing for the fences that’s supposed to drive a point home just winds up going foul.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    To avoid any further confusion, I changed “The only way to get pinned on the underside of an automobile is for an automobile to run squarely into the cyclist” to: “If the cyclist in fact “collided with the car” (and not the other way around), then would he have ended up underneath the car? Not very likely.”

    The point was that the mainstream media (not InsideToronto.com) was implying that the cyclist ran into the car.

  • Gclarke

    What ever happened to the Toronto “Cycle Right Campaign” whose objectives were outlined as:

    The “Cycle Right” campaign will focus on drivers who endanger cyclist’s lives with their driving actions, vehicles parking in designated bike lanes, and cyclists who compromise the safety of others using the roads and sidewalks by disobeying the rules of the road. Educational opportunities for motorists and cyclists will be provided over the course of the Campaign.

    Perhaps the media needs to be invited to the “educational opportunities” part of this effort to help them understand the how motorists and cyclists co-exist on the streets.

  • Gclarke

    What ever happened to the Toronto “Cycle Right Campaign” whose objectives were outlined as:

    The “Cycle Right” campaign will focus on drivers who endanger cyclist’s lives with their driving actions, vehicles parking in designated bike lanes, and cyclists who compromise the safety of others using the roads and sidewalks by disobeying the rules of the road. Educational opportunities for motorists and cyclists will be provided over the course of the Campaign.

    Perhaps the media needs to be invited to the “educational opportunities” part of this effort to help them understand the how motorists and cyclists co-exist on the streets.

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