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Cyclists call for truck side guards in wake of Toronto cyclist's death

On the West Toronto Railpath, near the site of cyclist Jenna Morrison's fatal accident, a makeshift memorial sign

Lisan Jutras for The Globe and Mail/lisan jutras The Globe and Mail

There were tears and hugs at the spot in Toronto where a pregnant cyclist was recently killed by a truck as scores gathered Monday morning and demanded regulations to force heavy vehicles to have protective side guards.

On a gray rush-hour morning, the crowd had arrived on their bicycles, stirred by the death a week ago of Jenna Morrison, a 38-year-old pregnant yoga instructor who was on her way to pick up her five-year son when a turning truck hit her on a busy west-end intersection.

Organizers asked for a minute of silence when the cyclists arrived at Sterling and Dundas, where candles and flowers marked the place of Ms. Morrison's death.

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Ms. Morrison's tearful mother and other family members joined in.

"My own brother died seven years ago for the same reason," Neal Kuellmer told the cyclists gathered Monday morning.

He urged them to appeal to the federal government to make truck side guards mandatory.

"Please, let's make it happen."

Mr. Kuellmer teared up and hugged friends as he spoke of his late brother, Galen, and of a bid by NDP MP Olivia Chow to raise the issue in the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

"It definitely would mean something to us, a little less chance of dying when we go to work in the morning," Mr. Kuellmer said.

Ms. Morrison's mother, Darlene, was among the first to sign a petition being passed among the riders.

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Nearby, flowers, candles and incense sticks clustered around a makeshift memorial to her daughter. On the stretch of pavement near the accident, some had stencil-painted a symbolic cycling path.

"Jenna would be here today if there had been side guards on trucks," said a friend, Rebecca Leonard.

"We miss here terribly."

The trucking industry and the federal transportation regulator argue the evidence of the side-guard's effectiveness isn't clear.

A report from 2010, commissioned by Transport Canada and made available to The Globe and Mail, shows that since the introduction of guards on the side of most trucks in Europe in the late 1980s, the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed or seriously wounded in crashes with large vehicles has dropped.

However, the National Research Council Canada, which produced the study, found it unclear whether the safety measure was entirely responsible for the decrease in deaths and injuries, or one of several factors. Transport Canada spokeswoman Melanie Quesnel said in an e-mail that her department would be open to examining the issue further "should any valid information become available in the future to support the use of side guards as a significant means to improve safety."

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The Canadian study cited a British probe that zeroed in on crashes involving the sides of trucks. A substantial reduction in cyclist deaths (61 per cent) and serious injuries (13 per cent) occurred 10 years after side guards were introduced.

Still, the government research agency cautioned side guards are only part of the solution and an uncertain one at that. "It is not clear if side guards will reduce deaths and serious injury or if the guards will simply alter the mode of death and seriously injury," it concluded.

Estimates on the cost of side guards range from $600 to $2,600, depending on the type of truck and guard. In some cases, the cost could be recovered through improved fuel efficiency, the National Research Council study said.

With files from Renata D'aliesio and Marcus Gee.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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