Toronto Star: Grassroots Group Pushes for Mandatory Truck Sideguards for Safer Roads
November 28, 2011
TORONTO – With tears and anger, grieving friends and family of some of the Toronto cyclists who have died in truck accidents are lending their support to a federal private member’s bill that would make side guards mandatory on heavy trucks in Canada.
“The Canadian government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens. Side guards are a no-brainer, like seatbelts and airbags,” said Karen MacNeil Hartmann, whose husband, cyclist Ulrich Hartmann, was killed by a cement truck on Sept. 11, 2006.
Speaking at the Kensington Market yoga studio where Jenna Morrison taught before the young, pregnant cyclist was killed by a truck earlier this month, MacNeil Hartmann said she still searches her soul to understand the senseless death of the man she described as a “gentle teddy bear.”
“I miss Ulrich every day. I ache for what might have been. Christmas-time is especially hard. Ulrich loved spoiling us. If side guards were made mandatory, as they have been for 30 years in some countries, that would be the best Christmas present,” said MacNeil Hartmann, a neo-natal nurse who says post-traumatic stress and depression have prevented her from returning to work.
Her daughter Samantha, who was 9 when Hartmann died, cited the ways in which her life has been changed by the loss.
“I didn’t get to have my dad at my Grade 8 graduation. I didn’t get the embarrassment of my dad having a first intervention with my first boyfriend. I won’t have my dad walk me down the aisle when I get married.
“If side guards had been mandatory I might still have my dad. But we as a country still have an opportunity to save other people’s lives. We can prevent that life-altering phone call for other families,” she said.
Mandatory in parts of Europe, side guards prevent a cyclist or pedestrian from falling beneath a vehicle if hit. But the federal government says such a law would hamper the competitiveness of the trucking industry.
The Ontario Trucking Association has said side guards don’t make sense because there are few heavy trucks downtown and preventing cyclist-truck collisions is a more complex issue than that.
But Toronto MP Olivia Chow, the NDP transport critic, who introduced the bill in Ottawa following Morrison’s death, cited international studies showing that side guards were reducing such casualties by 45 to 60 per cent in Europe.
Mandatory side guards were also recommended by the Ontario coroner in 1998.
It’s the third time Chow has pushed for the safety measure. This time, she said, the government has suggested it might be willing to listen if research shows side guards really are safer.
“The research is clear. Side guards save lives, it’s good for the environment and it also is good for the pocketbook,” said Chow, who believes the side guards, which cost $1,800 to $2,500 to install, would reduce fuel consumption and ultimately pay for themselves within two years.
In the wake of Morrison’s death, some of her friends have begun a website, www.safetrucks.ca , that includes a petition advocating for the side guards.
“As a cyclist, (Morrison) embodied the values of gentle ecology, frugality and on-the-ground engagement with the city she loved,” said her friend Matthew Remski.
“On Nov. 7 this bright flower of Toronto got lost in the blind spot of a single driver and was thrown into that killing zone where a side guard should be,” he said.
“Who really would argue with the idea of making trucks more safe? We can’t think of anybody,” Remski said. “When a community member is killed by a truck, we are shown how vulnerable we all are.”
Source: Toronto Star article