press conference text for jenna and other casualties of a negligent machine
here are my speaking notes for the press conference i helped facilitate on behalf of bill c-344, which would mandate sideguards for all heavy trucks.
“Loved Ones of Lost Cyclists and Pedestrians Come Together to Urge Government to Mandate Side Guards for Heavy Trucks”
venue: Spirit Wind Internal Arts, above Urban Herbivore on Augusta
- Matthew Remski: introduction
- Karen MacNeil Hartmann: remembering Ulrich
- Samantha Hartmann: remembering Ulrich
- Adam Hartmann: remembering Ulrich
- Jeanette Holman-Price: Jessica’s Campaign
- Olivia Chow: summarizing the rationale behind bill C-344
- Matthew: Jenna and roundup, with website launch
- Megan Holtz, with Minnow and Plum Holtz-Carriere
- Jayme Gianola: web designer and cycling activist
- Nancy Smith-Lea: Toronto Centre for Active Transportation
- Andrea Garcia: Toronto Bike Union
- Jarred Kolb: Toronto Bike Union
- Tim Ehlich: researcher for Olivia Chow
- Jonah Schein: MPP Toronto Davenport, cycling advocate
- powerful impact statements from the families of casualties that would have been prevented by safer trucks: who these people were, what they meant to us, how we long for them
- endorsement of bill c-344, put forward by Olivia Chow; this is the first of a multi-pronged initiative to improve the ecology of our roadways
- launch of www.safetrucks.ca
We’re here to demand that the federal government mandate higher standards for truck safety, so our roads become more inviting to everyone who uses them: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike.
My name is Matthew Remski. Jenna Morrison was my dear friend. On November 7th. her skull was crushed under the wheels of a truck. she was five months pregnant. She leaves behind a distraught but courageous husband, Florian, and her strong little man: five-year-old Lucas. The truck that crushed her skull had no sideguards. She fell slowly and simply into the undercarriage. But for a single sheet of rigid steel that would have pushed her out of the way, she would be in this studio at this hour, teaching her regular Monday morning class.
Joining me this morning are Megan Holtz, widow of Ryan Carrier, who died in 2005 in the same way that Jenna died: being clipped by a right-turning truck and then dragged under the rear wheels. Joining her this morning are their beautiful daughters, Minnow and Plum.
Also we have Karen MacNeil Hartmann, widow of Ulrich Hartmann, who died in 2006 of injuries sustained when a cement truck hit him as he rode his bicycle home from work. Karen has brought their beautiful daughter Samantha, 14, and their brave son, Adam, who is 9; they’ll be speaking to you shortly.
This is Jayme Gianola, a Toronto yoga teacher and associate of Jenna’s, who in a few days has designed the website for our initiative: www.safetrucks.ca which we’ll tell you more about in a bit.
Andrea Garcia and Jarred Kolb is here from the Toronto Bike Union, and this is Nancy Smith Lea of Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, and the Clean Air Partnership.
You all know Olivia Chow, MP for Trinity-Spadina, who on 11/14 presented bill C-344 to parliament, calling for mandatory truck sideguards. She rode here with flowers in her bike-basket.
You also know Jonah Schein, MPP for Toronto-Davenport. He is a cycling advocate, and the provincial NDP transport critic who is pressuring the government to release its long-delayed cycling safety strategy. For we as family members and friends in grief, we don’t care how it gets done: it’s imperative that all levels of government are involved in making trucks more safe for everyone.
We’re meeting here in spirit wind internal arts, where Jenna taught and treated 100s of students and clients. This business is owned by Dylan Kirk, who has set up and maintained this community altar for Jenna, to which this morning we have added the photographs of Ryan and Ulrich – and to which we mentally add the images and memories of the dozens of pedestrians and cyclists who have needlessly perished on the roads of our great but sometimes neglectful cities.
Here’s just a bit of the embarrassing history of our regulatory neglect:
In 1998, Erin Krauser and Martha Kennedy were both killed under heavy vehicles. This prompted Dr. William Lucas, Toronto’s then-coroner, to undertake a survey of cycling deaths dating back to 1986 . He found that our general safety strategies were inadequate, and proposed several measures, among which 3 are most important:
- that cyclists be given right-of-way in the Highway Act;
- a renewed commitment to bicycle-lane infrastructure; and:
- MANDATORY SIDEGUARDS ON ALL HEAVY TRUCKS, to prevent undercarriage fatalities.
This is 13 years ago.
Following the Lucas report, no level of government does anything. Many more deaths follow: in the dozens.
We can’t quite tell you how many are preventable, because our governments have not thus far linked the data about charges against motorists to the tally of injuries and fatalities. But we can definitely tell you that sideguards save lives, from copious research and experience gathered by the European Union.
Government statistics do show that from 2004 to 2006, 77 pedestrians and 24 cyclists died nationwide as a result of collisions with heavy vehicles in urban areas. Another 1,410 people were injured.
in 2005, Ryan Carriere dies under the wheels of a truck. in 2006, Ulrich dies under the wheels of a truck. The City of Toronto Works Committee recommends sideguards again, calling upon the federal Ministry of Transportation to take action. It also recommends that the City of Toronto retrofits its truck fleet with sideguards.
But nothing happens. Except – more collisions, more injuries, more deaths.
Also in 2006: Olivia Chow Introduces a petition in House of Commons. Her initiative is voted down.
And nothing else happens. Except – more collisions, more injuries, more deaths.
The embarrassment is becoming an outrage.
Then in 2010: Siobhan Coady (MP of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl) brought a Private Members’ Bill, seconded by Olivia Chow, called “An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Side Guards)“. Bill C-512 had the first reading in the house on April 15, 2010. It failed.
And, nothing happens. except – more collisions, more injuries, more deaths.
On October 24th of this year, the Chief Coroner for Ontario, Dr. Andrew McCallum announces that his office will investigate fatal collisions involving cyclists covering the years 2006 through 2010. Findings are expected to be released in the spring of 2012. We know what he will find: we are neglecting a clear responsibility.
I’d like to ask Karen MacNeil Hartmann, along with her children, to make their statements now.
[Karen, Samantha, and Adam speak.]
On the phone with us from Newfoundland is Jeanette Holman-Price. Her daughter Jessica was also crushed beneath the wheels of a truck – again – a truck with no side guards. she is the founder of Jessica’s campaign, which has made great legislative inroads on the issue of truck safety for both cyclists and pedestrians – in Newfoundland, and in British Columbia.
Olivia – you’ve worked on this for years. can you tell us about the current bill? and about your letter to Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel?
Allow me to bring this back to the human story, with a few words about Jenna.
She was an outstanding yoga teacher and massage therapist who specialized in women’s reproductive health. She had the unique ability to make every client feel like a family member. Her plucky maternal influence extended throughout the many Toronto studios and clinics that claimed her as their own. As a cyclist, she embodied in daily life the values of gentle ecology, frugality, and on-the-ground engagement with the city that she loved.
Relentlessly friendly, tirelessly hopeful, witty, affectionate, inclusive, and unconventional, she inspired and uplifted hundreds.
On November 6th, I spent an hour with Jenna, which was like any other hour we spent together, speaking intimately about our lives, hopes and plans. She placed my hand on her belly so I could feel her baby kicking. she was as close to me in that moment as she was to everyone, everyday, who knew and loved her.
On November 7th, this bright flower of Toronto got lost in the blind spot of a truck driver, and was thrown into that killing zone where a sideguard should be. Her sudden absence has created a vacuum in the hearts of everyone who knew her. This vacuum has pulled us together in grief and celebration, to recreate in ourselves what we have lost. We miss her terribly, and thank her for everything.
We ask: who really would argue with the idea of making trucks more safe? If we’re all in agreement here, we can go on to refer to the broader issue: when a community member is killed by truck, we are shown how vulnerable we are, how our speed and machinery and congestion have made simple and ecological commuting into a battle against fear and anxiety. we are out of balance. Sideguards are a mindlessly simple first step towards a kinder flow of people and resources.
Jenna was part of the flesh and blood of a kind society. Her life and mode of transport embodied and her death should make everyone see that flesh and blood needs bricks-and-mortar protection: sideguards, convex mirrors, bike lanes, perhaps even separated bike lanes, and mandatory motorist education. These things cost money and effort: and they are the signs of love and care. We’re making a long-overdue start with bill C-344.
I’d like to direct the public to www.safetrucks.ca. Everybody wants safe trucks. You can visit our site to read about the many angles of our approach. We’ve linked to Olivia’s bill, several petitions, and are compiling all of the research from the European Union, where sideguards have been mandatory since 1989.
Beyond our demand for sideguards, we will work to mandate convex mirroring for all heavy vehicles, and mandatory cyclist-interaction road training for everyone who holds a trucking license. Beyond even these goals, we will advocate for greater resources for cycling and pedestrian populations across the country, because walking and cycling is good for the environment, physical health, and sense of community. No longer should cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists travel in fear of each other.
Truck safety is not a divisive issue. Nobody can argue against making trucks more safe. Especially the transport industry itself, which clearly wishes to protect its drivers from the sorrow of spilled blood. Not to mention: research shows that the expense of flush-mounted sideguards is recouped in about 2 years through fuel efficiency savings! What’s not to like here?
www.safetrucks.ca is for those we have lost and those we wish to protect: on foot, on a bike, or behind the wheel. It makes good sense, for everybody.
Olivia has to fly to Ottawa in a minute, so please direct your questions to her first. but I’d like to end with the way Jenna signed off on every email: “take care of each other”.
www.safetrucks.ca says to all Canadians: let’s take care of each other.