Re-introduction of Vulnerable Road User Legislation at Queen’s Park

Story and photos by Jun Nogami.

On November 21, 2018, MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) re-introduced vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation as a private member's bill. Bell, who is the transit critic for the NDP said, "This year is not yet over, and in Toronto alone, we have already reached the highest number of combined pedestrian and cyclist deaths in a calendar year since we began tracking this data in 2007.”

The event was held at the corner of King and Spadina, where the bus shelter told Edouard Le Blanc's story.

Bell described the significance of the bill, and emphasized that road safety was not a partisan issue.

Some details on the bill:

  • It is more comprehensive than current legislation which focused rather narrowly on increasing penalties for the specific charge of careless driving.
  • It only  affects drivers who are convicted of a HTA offence that results in the death or serious injury of an VRU.
  • It requires a license suspension, driver education and public service.
  • It requires the offender to be in court to hear victim impact statements.

Lawyer, and founder of Bike Law Canada, Patrick Brown then summarized some of the cases over the past few years where someone was killed and yet drivers would only get a relatively minor fine, and in many cases, no impact on their ability to continue driving.

Additionally, there were several speakers who told their stories, or their families' stories to the media.

Heather Sim told us about her father Gary, who was an avid cyclist and an advocate. The driver that killed him was charged with an improper turn, and was allowed to drive away from the site where he killed Gary. He was fined $500.

In the fairly recent court case, the judge wanted to bring a higher penalty, but her hands were tied by legislation. Given the particular charge, the highest penalty available was $500. This illustrated one of the problems with the current system: although the penalties for "careless driving" are significantly more severe, in most cases, the charge is pled down to a lesser charge for which the penalty can be nominal. The threshold for being charged with "careless driving" is very high.

She closed by saying, "My dad's life was worth more than $500."

Jess Spieker told us of the debilitating injuries that she suffered after being hit by a car. The driver was only fined $300.

She turned her pain into action by continually advocating for safer streets on behalf of Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

Meredith Wilkinson was dragged under a truck and lost her leg. One again, the driver was only fined a small amount.

Katya Schmied told us about her sister-in-law, Kim Pape-Green, who was rushing home from work because her son had a minor accident at school. She commuted by public transit back to Newmarket from downtown.

She got to within a kilometre of her home when she was run down by a driver on a foggy evening. There were no witnesses, and to this day, the driver refuses to give a statement to the police. The driver was not required to hear the victim impact statements from family member. She said that "We are not here for our family; we are here for your families so that you don't have to go through what we have had to do."

MPP Bell then thanked all the speakers, as well as the members of the groups that support the VRU legislation. In a statement she added, "Rather than do the right thing and improve safety for vulnerable road users, Doug Ford is making things even worse. He put politics over people and cancelled planned infrastructure spending that was designed to make our roadways better for everybody who uses them.”

The bill is supported by Cycle Toronto, Ontario Brain Injury Association, United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Bikelaw Canada, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, Bells on Bloor, Hoof & Cycle, Toronto Bicycling Network, Walk Toronto, Kids at Play, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, Citizens for Safe Cycling, Citizens Environment Alliance (Ottawa), Brain Injury Society of Toronto, Velo Canada Bikes, 8-80 Cities, Brampton Cycling Club, and the Newmarket Cycling Club.

RIP Edouard Le Blanc.

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