I wrote this article for the Toronto Star after witnessing a 5-year-old boy die following a collision with a car. Within a week the City of Toronto had installed a temporary fence and the cycling community had created a memorial for the little boy, Xavier Morgan, including a ghost bike — the smallest one cycling advocates have had to prepare.
May 25, 2017
By Scott Colby
I’ve been biking to work year round from south Etobicoke to One Yonge St. for about eight years now, and when I strap on my helmet and head out, I don’t know what I am going to see that day.
I have seen so much beauty on these rides. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. A glowing orange moon rising behind the CN Tower.
I’ve seen stunning birds, lone coyotes on the hunt, mink swimming along the shore, ducklings learning to swim. I’ve enjoyed the laughter of children playing in parks and large families enjoying a picnic.
I’ve watched young adults racing dragon boats and a lone rower sneaking up the Humber River. I’ve been caught in spectacular lightning storms while I took refuge in a gazebo as sheets of vertical rain blew across the harbour.
I have also seen horrific scenes that have shaken me deeply.
Last summer, a male cyclist was speeding past me, weaving in and out of traffic by the Tip Top Tailor Lofts, going far too fast for the conditions, when he hit a post and cracked his femur in two. I was right behind him and saw — and heard — the devastating accident.
As the man cried out in agony, I was able to stop and call 911. The dispatcher insisted I stay with the man and three of us made sure he stayed conscious until paramedics arrived. We tried to comfort and encourage him as he went into shock. It was disturbing, to say the least.
I’ve come across accident scenes after the paramedics had left but police were still on scene. One involved a cyclist who apparently lost control after hitting the streetcar tracks at the wrong angle on Lake Shore Blvd. in New Toronto and fell into traffic. She was hit by a minivan and died. Her bike was still on the road, the lights flashing.
On another early morning, the road was closed to traffic on Lake Shore in Mimico, but I biked on the sidewalk and past the scene of a single-car accident. The driver failed to negotiate the turn, and hit a light post. The driver was fine, but the passenger’s arm was torn off. Another driver lost his life in a single-car accident after hitting a light pole in front of the Boulevard Club.
I’ve been nearly run over by cars on two occasions while riding on the path through an intersection. I had the right of way. Last summer, another cyclist rammed into me from behind, causing us both to crash onto the pavement.
But, on Wednesday, biking home, I witnessed the worst possible accident.
A 5-year-old boy riding his bike lost control somehow and fell into traffic on Lake Shore Blvd W. He was hit by a car. When I arrived the boy was still on the road, motionless, and people were pulling out their phones to call 911.
A man picked the boy off the road and put him on the sidewalk. I believe it was the man cycling with the boy. Others rushed to his side. The rest is a blur. The driver who hit the boy had gotten out of his car and was standing beside me on the bike path. He was beyond devastated. People tried to help the boy until the paramedics arrived. I don’t recall who started the chest compressions.
Others, including myself, tried to comfort the 29-year-old driver. A man on the path told me he saw the accident and there was nothing the driver could have done. The boy died later in hospital.
I’ve been trying to process what happened.
That stretch of the Martin Goodman Trail runs right beside a high volume road. There is no boulevard or barrier. And it’s downhill. Cyclists frequently ride too fast. Other cyclists agree with me that this site has been an accident waiting to happen. On windy days, with powerful gusts coming off the lake, I’ve worried about being blown into traffic myself. I believe a guardrail could have saved that boy’s life . . . and, I’ll bet, a future life.
I also feel there are unnecessary dangers every day, for all commuters, on the path. I do see that pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, drivers, and rollerbladers are far too often reckless. Too many people are in a hurry. People aren’t looking. People are angry and quick to lash out at each other.
People need to slow down. The injuries and deaths I’ve described were all preventable. When I pass one of the accident sites, I often think about what happened there. The daily commute shouldn’t feel like running a gauntlet of life and death.
Scott Colby is the Toronto Star’s Opinion Page editor.