Bells ring out in concert and, within minutes, Toronto cyclists take off, cutting a route to where a 58-year-old cyclist was killed by a flatbed truck last week.

There appeared to be about 200 cyclists who congregated in memory of Dalia Chako on Wednesday evening. Among the many faces were her son Skylor Brummans and his wife, Ashley, who are from Minneapolis.

Steve Russell / Toronto Star
Cyclists stopped traffic Wednesday evening at Bloor and St. George Sts. during the memorial ride.

Brummans, father of a 10-month-old daughter, said the loss of his mother is akin to “a roller-coaster ride.”

“It’s hard to describe,” he told the Star.

While he said he’s angry and upset, he feels compassion, because that’s what he’s received since arriving in Toronto, a place that’s already grappling with an “ongoing struggle” for cyclist safety, he said.

“She loved riding her bike,” Brummans said of his mother, “in the European sense.”

At the event, put on by the group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, people gathered at Bloor St. W. and Spadina Ave., and pedalled along a roundabout route, temporarily halting traffic, to Bloor and St. George Sts., where Chako was killed. At the intersection, a white bike was installed in honour of Chako. For about 12 years Geoffrey Bercarich, an organizer of the ride, has been making these “ghost bikes,” which are seen in several neighbourhoods around the city in honour of the dead.

He said the event is not a “political tool,” more of a shrine to inform people that someone lost their life at a “dangerous” junction.

Bercarich takes aim at Toronto’s “Wild West” intersections, characterizing them as being stuck in the 1950s. The city needs to change, he continued, by giving more time for pedestrians to cross streets, clamping down on drivers blowing through lights and having fewer vehicles in general, especially trucks. Bercarich said trucks should not make deliveries at peak traffic hours.

“Trucks really jump the curb and crush people. Nobody’s taking responsibility for the derelict form of our intersections,” Bercarich said, noting that the city’s Vision Zero plan falls short.

“The city is trying things out, not implementing solutions. There was no vision for Vision Zero,” he said.

Donna Patterson, who attended the memorial ride, said events of this ilk are important because they “humanize.”

News of Chako’s death affected her deeply, she said, because, as someone who cycles almost year-round, it could have been her — “it could have happened to anyone,” Patterson said.

While she said the incident made her “afraid” for her safety, she’s continued to ride her bike, noting it would be counterproductive not to.

“It’s this idea that how could this happen in a bike lane? She was doing the right thing and she still got killed,” she said.

The memorial ride is the third in less than a week after a rash of deaths on the city’s streets.

On Friday, cyclists honoured Jonas Mitchell, 36, who died in hospital this month after he was hit on Lake Shore Blvd. in May.

On Sunday, riders paid respects to Aaron Rankine-Wright, 19, who was hit by a car and stabbed after leaving his apartment on June 9. Two boys, aged 17 and 13, have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

A fourth ghost bike ride is being planned this Sunday for Colin Patrick Sztronga, 47, who was struck and killed in Markham last week.

Earlier this week, a coalition of advocates laid out 15 recommendations they say mayoral and council candidates should adopt to protect pedestrians and cyclists

Numbers compiled by the Star show 18 pedestrians and four cyclists have died so far this year.

The Star’s numbers are higher than police statistics in part because the force doesn’t count collisions on provincial highways within Toronto, or cyclist deaths that don’t involve a motorist.

With files from Ben Spurr and Inori Roy

Source: The Toronto Star