Toronto

Cyclist killed outside Dufferin Mall ID'd as Alexandra Amaro, 23, remembered for her 'energy, empathy'

Family and friends are remembering a 23-year-old cyclist who was killed in Toronto's west end last week as a kind and intelligent young woman whose "light shone radiantly on everyone." 

Amaro was a budding journalism student whose 'light shone radiantly,' obituary says

According to an online obituary, Alexandra Amaro, 23, was fatally struck by two vehicles outside Dufferin Mall on Dec. 2. She is being remembered as a kind and intelligent young woman who was studying to be a journalist.  (Cardinal Funeral Homes )

Family and friends are remembering a 23-year-old cyclist who was killed in Toronto's west end last week as a kind and intelligent young woman whose "light shone radiantly on everyone." 

An obituary posted online through Cardinal Funeral Homes identifies the victim as Alexandra Amaro — a journalism student at Ryerson University who also spent the last four years working at Crown Flora Studio, a Toronto flower shop.

Amaro died after two vehicles struck her on the evening of Dec. 2 while she was cycling on Dufferin Street north of College Street. 

"Alex was a magnet that drew everyone together with her natural energy, empathy, intelligence, smile, laughter, humour, kindness, generosity, and quick quips … oh, she was sassy, and loved it," the obituary reads. 

The obituary says Amaro was a beloved "spiritual traveller, life philosopher [and] eloquent writer," who was taken too soon from her older sister, parents and grandparents. 

"In one tragic second, our beautiful baby girl, Alexandra, was taken from us," the post reads. 

"You will live forever in our hearts and memories." 

'She was an angel' 

In a tribute posted to Instagram on Monday, owners of the Crown Flora Studio also described Amaro as a "sweet angel," who brought light and positivity to their close-knit workplace. 

Detailing their frequent early mornings, late nights, coffee runs and photo shoots, the post went on to say that her smile and calmness will be missed by all who knew her. 

According to Amaro's co-workers as well as an online obituary, she was a journalism student at Ryerson University who was 'driven' and 'passionate.'  (Davis Khounnoraj/Crown Flora Studio)

Davis Khounnoraj, who co-owns the shop along with his partner Adam Mallory, says they were told about the accident at 8 a.m. on Dec. 3 — the morning after it happened. His initial reaction, he says, was one of disbelief. 

"We thought it was a joke at first," he said. 

Even after Khounnoraj was told about the incident, he thought she might have just been injured. But Amaro's sister confirmed in a phone call that she had died. 

"We just felt sick," he said. "We literally saw her the day before. The last thing I said to her was, 'See you in the morning.'" 

In the days that followed, Khounnoraj says he has felt waves of shock, anger and sadness. But with those feelings came the bittersweet realization that Amaro had touched many more people than he had known. 

"Strangers loved her, my customers loved her," said Khounnoraj through tears. 

"She was just positive. She was an angel — it sounds really cliché." 

Davis Khounnoraj says he and Amaro would do almost daily photo shoots together, with her as the subject. (Davis Khounnoraj/Crown Flora Studio)

He says he's still trying to read through all of the condolence messages sent to him. 

"Looking back, we know that she was kind, generous, never complained, hard-worker, creative. She loved her family, she loved her friends," he said. 

"She lived a life that a lot of people don't live in this short amount of time." 

Victim struck by 2 vehicles outside Dufferin Mall

Amaro was struck as she was travelling southbound on Dufferin Street at Sylvan Avenue around 6:30 p.m on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Toronto police say she was hit by a white Cargo van headed in the same direction, driven by a 36-year-old man.

She then fell into the northbound lanes, where police say she was struck by a black SUV, driven by 24-year-old man.

Amaro was pronounced dead at the scene. 

A makeshift memorial is growing near Dufferin Street at Sylvan Avenue, where the 23-year-old cyclist was fatally struck on Dec. 2. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

In an email to CBC Toronto, Sgt. Murray Campbell said the investigation is ongoing. The next step, he says, will be a consultation with the provincial prosecutor assigned to the case to determine if charges will be laid against either of the two drivers. 

That consultation is expected to take place in the coming days. Investigators are asking anyone with security or dashcam footage of the incident to contact police at 416-808-1900 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 416-222-8477 (TIPS).

Toronto sees increase in cyclist deaths this year

Amaro is the fourth cyclist to die in a traffic collision this year in the city. In 2019, there was just one.

Michael Longfield, the interim executive director of the advocacy group Cycle Toronto, calls the increase "a disturbing trend," adding that the city needs to do more to protect vulnerable road users. 

The scene after the 23-year-old cyclist was fatally struck by two vehicles in front of Dufferin Mall last week. (Rozenn Nicolle/CBC)

"Road safety is probably important now more than ever," he said.

"From the early days of the pandemic, I think more people rediscovered that riding your bike can be an efficient way to get around while still practising physical distancing." 

Longfield commended the city's ActiveTO program, which temporarily created dozen of kilometres of "quiet streets," closing major roads for active transportation throughout the summer months. 

But the city's Quiet Streets program was shuttered at the beginning of November — a move many cycling advocates like Longfield say was ill-timed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Now's not the time to be contracting that; we really need to be expanding it." 

Temporary bike lanes created this year will remain for the winter, though weekend road closures and the city's Quiet Streets program have been shuttered. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

According to data provided by the City of Toronto, there have been fewer overall combined deaths this year among cyclists and pedestrians. So far in 2020, there have been a total of 18 deaths, compared to 64 in 2019, 66 and 2018 and 63 in 2017. 

Despite the dip, Longfield says this year's number still falls short of the city's Vision Zero 2.0 plan, a strategy aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries. 

"The important thing to remember is that these aren't just stats, these are people, these are family members, these are friends," he said. 

"There should be no fatalities on these roads." 

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