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Staff report recommends against side guards on HRM vehicles despite safety concerns

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WATCH ABOVE: A new staff report is recommending against putting side guards on trucks owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality and its contractors. Global’s Rebecca Lau reports – Mar 21, 2016

A staff report is recommending against putting side guards on trucks owned by HRM and its contractors.

The metal barrier is designed to prevent a cyclist or pedestrian from falling underneath a vehicle in a collision, specifically when the vehicle is making a right-hand turn.

They’re used in certain places in Europe, and Boston and Montreal have begun installing them on their city-owned vehicles.

READ MORE: Cycling coalition calls for protective sideguards on trucks after cyclist killed

But a staff report before Thursday’s Transportation Standing Committee is advising no further action on implementing them.

The Halifax Cycling Coalition calls the findings “disappointing.”

“They made comments like they can’t quantify the number of lives that could be saved through this,” said coalition member, Ben Wedge.

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“We know from the UK and even some of the evidence they even cited in that report, there’s a 61 per cent reduction in fatalities when you put side guards on trucks and that’s cyclists and pedestrians who might be struck during a right turn and then pulled under the wheels.”

That’s what happened in May 2014 when Johanna Dean was struck and killed at the intersection of Albro Lake and Windmill Roads in Dartmouth. The 30-year-old teacher’s bicycle was hit by the side of a truck making a right-hand turn.

READ MORE: Sister of woman killed in bike accident wants more protection for cyclists

“It must be very scary to be between one of those trucks and the curb,” said Wedge.

“The sidewall of that truck is up at your shoulder height and that’s what knocks people over, knocks them over at the shoulder and there’s nothing to keep them from going under that rear wheel.”

Montreal has begun installing the side-guards on city owned vehicles. File/ Global News

Dartmouth Centre councillor, Gloria McCluskey, who sits on the Transportation Standing Committee has already received emails from residents concerned about the report’s recommendations.

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While she remains open-minded, she says she’s currently siding with staff.

“I’ll go along with what staff are saying until we discuss it on Thursday and if something new comes up but right now, the jury is out as to whether how effective it is,” McCluskey said.

“Transport Canada has studied it and they don’t think it will make much difference.”

However, the Transport Canada study was incomplete and the Halifax Cycling Coalition wants councillors to consider the possibility the study was scrapped for political reasons.

Retro-fitting the municipality’s fleet of 100 heavy duty vehicles would cost between $3,500 and $4,000. The HRM staff report estimates there would be a one-time fit-up cost of $350,000 to $400,000 and an unknown increased annual maintenance cost.

“I understand not wanting to spend a bunch of money on something but I think that the side rails on trucks, side guards can be phased in over time,” said Halifax South Downtown councillor Waye Mason.

“The cost can be included in future purchases. We can make it a mandatory thing and if we phased it in in three or five years, I think it’s doable.”

Mason says he would like to see the city implement the guards despite what the staff report suggests and he plans to move forward with an alternate motion to move forward with the idea.

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“Hopefully the rest of the committee thinks that this is something we should explore,” he said.

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