You could tell right away that the Cycling Death Review, released today in Toronto, would be a trending topic with the mainstream media.
I showed up 30 minutes early for the press briefing at Xeriscape Park at the corner of Grosvenor Street and University Avenue in Toronto and there wasn't a parking space to be found. CTV, CBC, CityTV and the lot had filled up the street, and the hottest part of this little treed square bordered by the Whitney Block and the Mowat Block in Queen's Park.
Pretty good-sized crowd at the briefing, with camera crews, print media, bloggers, cycling advocates and others. And although the review was passed out prior to the briefing and, in theory, everyone could have just taken off to read it and post their thoughts, pretty much everyone stayed to listen to chief coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum; Toronto West regional supervising coroner Dr. Dan Cass; Share the Road Cycling Coalition's Eleanor McMahon; Patrick Brown, who stood for a number of road-user groups, including Cycle Toronto, 8-80 Cities, Hoof and Cycle and United Senior Citizens of Ontario; and Toronto Police Service Const. Hugh Smith, himself a Can-Bike examiner and co-founding member of the Toronto police cycle patrol.
Can't blame the Toronto media for turning out in droves: bicycling has been a hot-button issue for the Toronto media, esp. with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's battle against the so-called "war on cars" and all the buzz about adding and removing bike lanes.
McMahon addressed some of the vitriol, by speaking against the "overheated and irrational environment" that now exists, so over-heated that politicians are trying to figure out what they can do to please cyclists without alienating motorists.
McMahon said that cycling safety is "not a bicyclist versus motorist issue. It is us, it is we. We are all trying to navigate roads that are becoming increasingly crowded."
She might have pushed the envelop a bit too far when she said that "all Ontarians want this to change." Well, clearly, some Ontarians don't want it changed. They are happy with roads full of cars, and bicycles relegated to parks and multi-use trails that are out of sight and out of mind.
She moderated that later, but pointing out that "many" Ontarians want a better cycling environment. The "blame game is not an acceptable refuge," she told the gathering, inviting politicians to stop criticizing and make roads safer for all users.
Hers was the most political, and most passionate, of the addresses. But we'll need more than passion to make change in Ontario. We'll need commitment of cycling advocates and others to take this review and do something with it. Time to hold our politicians' feet to the fire.