A memorial ride for Morrison, killed while cycling one week ago, drew a large crowd this morning.
Estimating turnouts at things like this is difficult to do and politically fraught, so let’s just say there were hundreds of cyclists—easily hundreds—at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue this morning, there to ride in memory of Jenna Morrison, a cyclist killed one week ago today.
At 7:30 a.m. Chloé Rosemarin, a cycling activist involved with Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, which had organized the ride, stood to address the crowd, but her voice was drowned out by a news helicopter circling the intersection.
“Can we do a people’s mic, like Occupy?” said an older guy who was standing off to the side. He was referring to a crowd communication technique popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Crowd members repeat whatever a speaker says, to amplify their words without need of a loudspeaker. It’s useful, but it makes even short, factual sentences sound eerily chantlike. “Okay?” said the guy. “MIC CHECK! MIC CHECK!”
Rosemarin implored the assembled cyclists to make this one “as much as possible, a silent ride.” The guy and one other person repeated what she said.
Morrison, a mother and yoga teacher, was riding her bike past the intersection of Dundas and Sterling streets last Monday when she was struck and killed by a passing truck. Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists volunteers had lashed a ghost bike (an ordinary bike, painted white) to the rack of a cargo bike. The group ride would end at Dundas and Sterling, where the ghost bike would be installed.
Car-on-bike fatalities have been a relative rarity in Toronto for at least the past five years, with only two recorded in 2010. By contrast, 20 pedestrian deaths were recorded during that same period of time—but that may have something to do with the fact that far fewer people cycle than walk. Toronto’s cycling community is growing, but it’s still relatively small, and so it’s not surprising that every death has the capacity to shock and sadden. Most of the people on the ride had never met Morrison, but every one of them knew that the manner of her death could one day be theirs.
As the ride wound its way toward its destination, motorists, who had no choice but to wait while the crowd cycled past, were antsy. A few of them honked, and one got out of his car to have an argument with a rider about the crowd’s blithe disregard for red lights. At a certain point, bike-mounted police officers arrived and began directing traffic.
At Dundas and Sterling streets, the crowd observed a minute of silence, shattered only by the droning of the blades of that news helicopter, which had followed the ride for its entire length. Geoffrey Bercarich, of Bike Pirates, clasped the ghost bike to a street sign. Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale-High Park, raised her voice to announce that she and Olivia Chow would be tabling a bill to require trucks to have side guards—a precautionary measure that cycling advocates believe could have saved Morrison’s life. Somewhere, in the thick of it all, Morrison’s mother signed a petition for bike lanes that then circulated to the rest of the crowd.
A van drove up Sterling Road and stopped in front of the mass of cyclists, but before the driver could become angry, a woman walked her bike over to him and said something through the open driver’s-side window that made him smile. They had reached an understanding. He backed away slowly.