Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No charges in fatal bike accident

Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun
August11, 2009.

Had the tires on the bike that killed Cheng Li Jiang on a Kennedy Rd. sidewalk been a tad bigger, her death would have merited an $85 fine.

As it stands now there are no charges, no fine, no nothing.

Kind of cheap for the taking of a life of a wife and mother of two who was just going out to the store!

It was only a matter of time before somebody on a sidewalk would be killed by a speedy cyclist.

It's up to us if we want to stop there being more. Had that bike had a licensed adult on the pedals, perhaps dangerous driving charges could have been laid or even criminal negligence causing death.

But this cyclist was a 15-year-old on a kid's bike and it's only larger, adult-style bicycles that a city bylaw bans from sidewalks.

Translation? The tragic death of Jiang, 56, means nothing in terms of the law.

She died in hospital Friday after landing on her head Thursday and that's the end of it.
Unless, of course, we decide to change it. And we had better.

"There have been three horrible bike accidents in the past four days," says a frustrated Sgt. Tim Burrows of Toronto Police's traffic services.

"And we have had too many close calls."

Neale Gifford is one who recently had one.
"Sidewalks do belong to pedestrians," says Neale.

"Cyclists do complain about cars. But what about pedestrians who are terrorized? The biggest issue is the lack of enforcement of the law. Patrolling police cruisers ignore sidewalk cyclists."

It's a huge problem and an emergency meeting of council is needed and a whole new approach to bikes on the roads needs to be implemented.

And perhaps the horrible death of Cheng Li, who came to Toronto eight years ago from Shanghai, China, could be the catalyst to change.

It's the least Toronto could do for her.

"I don't understand any of this," says her brother, John Jiang, who was clearly angry.
"What is with the mayor and council collecting all of the taxes and not keeping people safe going for a walk on the sidewalk?"

Her family -- husband, JinBio Fang, and sons, Yuan Fang, 27, and Zheng Fang, 30 -- is devastated.

"She had a big heart," says John Jiang. "We are so sad."

Funeral arrangements are pending and her family says they are contacting a lawyer to look into the events surrounding this senseless death.

Councillor Michael Walker has been warning of this possibility for years.

"Sooner or later a government is going to get sued," he says.

His recommendation is already before council urging them to license all cyclists and ensure that they have proper training and safety equipment.

Another thing that should come out of this is a coroner's inquest.

Meanwhile, Toronto Police are still investigating. But you can see the problem. First of all you are dealing with a 15-year-old and the fact that there is no criminal intent. There is also no law that says that bike is not to be on the sidewalk.

"They both saw each other and failed to negotiate that," said Burrows, who wants to see bikes off sidewalks.

It's not lost on anybody that had that been a car which struck and killed the woman, you know there would be charges laid. It's also not lost that people riding their bikes on pedestrian sidewalks are out of control in every part of the city.

And it has to stop. It is a bylaw offence to do that and it's downright dangerous. It's scary to go for a walk anymore.

Walker is correct in his view that all people operating bikes should be licensed and subject to testing and that all safety concerns have to be addressed.

The veteran councillor would like to see only kids under 12 allowed to ride on sidewalks and proper training for everyone else who bikes on the road.

One problem police have noticed is older teens or even adults are using smaller BMX-style children's bikes for what Burrow's calls "skirting underneath" the standards and making it difficult for police to charge them.

Walker's idea would certainly take care of that.

Meanwhile, the city should call in Toronto Police Const. Hugh Smith, who has given 1,400 cops cycle training and could really help get this city up to proper standards.

He would like to see it mandatory for cyclists to wear helmets, identifying safety vests and gloves and be subject to a Highway Traffic Act offence should they not properly follow the rules of the road.

Of course there are some hoping this little mishap will just go away and die like Cheng Li Jiang did.

Perhaps there will be more who would join her family in wanting to learn something from her death and use it to prevent more tragedies.


~~Editor's Note~~
The investigation of this incident is still on-going. The article is correct that no charges have been laid, but until the investigation is fully comlete, the Toronto Police will not state that charges will not be laid.
The fine for riding on the sidewalk in Scarborough is $3.75.

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