Toronto launches review into keeping cyclists safe after 5-year-old boy's death

The city is launching a safety review of pedestrian trails located near vehicle traffic in the wake of a five-year-old boy's death near a popular bike route last week.

Bike month gets rolling at city hall with mayor joining riders on Yonge Street

Hundreds of cyclists rode to city hall through wet conditions to mark the start of bike month in the city. Many of the riders are calling on the city to make cycling safer, especially in the wake of a young boy's death on a local trail. (John Rieti/CBC)

The city is launching a safety review of pedestrian trails located near vehicle traffic in the wake of a five-year-old boy's death near a popular bike route last week.

The boy was riding with an adult on the Martin Goodman Trail near Dowling Avenue, which runs parallel to fast moving car traffic on Lakeshore Boulevard West, when he lost control of his bike and fell onto the roadway, where he was struck. He died in hospital.

The death is being considered a tragic accident. However, speaking with reporters after joining hundreds of cyclists who rode to city hall to get bike month rolling, Mayor John Tory said city will consider both short- and long-term fixes to protect cyclists and pedestrians using the trail. Right now, the curb is the only barrier in place.

"We'll make the changes we need to make," Tory said.

Coun. Jaye Robinson says conducting a safety review of the stretch of trail is the city's "top priority," and that she expects some changes soon.

It's unclear what that will look like, however.

Barbara Gray, the new general manager of transportation, said the Martin Goodman Trail has a good safety record and that the city needs to be careful about any changes — even if they're just temporary.

"The public always wants us to act very, very quickly when these situations happen … but we're not going to make any modifications until we know that they're going to help solve an issue," she said.

Gray says she hopes to have the safety review complete by this Friday. 

Mayor wants public's input on problem spots

Tanya Smith, an avid cyclist who brought her nine-year-old daughter and 11-month-old puppy to the event in her cargo bike, said safety is always a concern for her.

"We'd like to see our kids be able to bike to school but we don't necessarily feel safe yet," she told CBC Toronto.

Tanya Smith says while she loves cycling, she's hesitant to let her daughter bike in the city. 'I don’t always let her bike ... I don’t fully trust that she’s safe yet on the roads,' she said. (John Rieti/CBC)

Smith said while the city is building more bike lanes, the cycling community shouldn't get complacent and should be flagging problem spots. Saddened by news of the fatal incident, Smith said she hopes it will get the city to consider the cyclist's perspective more.

"I'd like to see more preventative action, than action taken after a child dies," she said.

Tory said he wants to hear from cyclists about other problem spots in the city that could be improved — especially any that are urgent.

"I think it's a health thing to look at safety issues on a continuous basis," he said.

Cycle Toronto calling for 'quick' fix

Cycle Toronto's Jared Kolb said the only thing that can be blamed in the boy's death is the infrastructure.

"I think by adding barriers or a side guard, we can get in there real quick and deal with that issue and make sure it never happens again," he said.

Plenty of bikes were decked out with special decoration for the day's festivities at city hall. (John Rieti/CBC)

Coun. Gord Perks, who represents the ward where the incident happened, said finding a solution that works may be a challenge, as a low fence could actually be more dangerous for cyclists, while a larger barricade could wind up cutting into the space.

Perks said the city has looked at changing how close the trail is to the road in the past, but its options are limited due to the shape of the lake and buildings in the area.

Speaking to the crowd of cyclists, Gray said Toronto has a lot of opportunities to improve cycling conditions.

"We have a lot of work to do together," she said. 

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.