Standing not far from the spot where her only child was killed by a cement truck, Maria Escanan choked back tears as she remembers her son Miguel Joshua Escanan.
“It’s so painful right now. It’s the only one son,” she said while looking at a makeshift memorial of flowers and holding up a photo of her son, who was known as M.J., on her cellphone.
Toronto police were called to the intersection of Avenue Road and Bloor Street West at around 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday after a personal injury collision involving a cement truck and a cyclist.
Investigators said an 18-year-old man was riding his bicycle northbound in the curb lane of Avenue Road, north of Bloor Street West, and was struck by a cement truck that was also travelling northbound on Avenue Road.
The 50-year-old man operating the cement truck remained at the scene and the cyclist was pronounced dead. Maria confirmed to Global News her son was that cyclist. The driver has not been charged.
As investigators probe what happened and appeal for witnesses who saw the collision and drivers with dashcam video to come forward, Maria said she was very worried about M.J. riding a bike in the city.
“They need to put a bike lane in here,” she explained, adding he was not a very experienced cyclist.
Joey Schwartz, a member of the group “Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists,” said this latest fatal collision involving a cyclist in the Greater Toronto Area, the first in the city of Toronto for 2021, is gut-wrenching.
Schwartz, who rides his bike down Avenue Road, said the collision was totally preventable given there is no bike lane along this stretch of Avenue Road and said construction at the Park Hyatt Hotel has made the area even more dangerous.
“I know many people who haven’t been killed, who’ve been hit, but this is the second death on Avenue Road,” he said, referring to the death of 26-year-old Adam Excell in 2015 at the corner of Avenue Road and Davenport Avenue.
Schwartz said protected bikes are needed, and better bike infrastructure.
“People are outraged. This is the kind of collision that is totally preventable,” he said.
Coun. Mike Layton, an avid cyclist who made a motion for bike lanes on Avenue Road between Bloor Street and Eglinton Avenue as part of ActiveTO in 2020, said Yonge Street was chosen as a preferred route.
“I still have faith that this would have been implemented in a reasonable amount of time this fall. I’ll continue to keep pushing for that because bike lanes and infrastructure do make it safer,” he explained.
Layton also pointed out a bylaw that says that vehicles must travel at least one metre away from cyclists is not being enforced.
“There needs to be enforcement and consequences if people break these rules. Now I don’t know how many have been charged with the fine for not passing a cyclist a metre away, but as a cyclist not many are doing it,” he said.
Rob Ziachkowski, who has a blog called Two-wheeled Politics, told Global News he put out an urgent alert on his blog asking followers to email and write Mayor John Tory and city councillors in an effort to urge them to implement bike lanes immediately along Avenue Road between Bloor Street West and Davenport Avenue to prevent similar tragedies and to encourage road safety.
“It’s not the only ActiveTO project which has been put under consideration. There’s one proposed for Overlea Boulevard since last year. Again, nothing got done despite students and teachers from Marc Garneau Collegiate making deputations saying we need community consultation now,” he said.
Tory was asked about the cyclist killed during his morning news conference and he called the incident tragic and preventable. He credited Vision Zero initiatives with reducing the number of pedestrians and cyclists injured or killed in the past couple of years.
“I will still be looking for a full report with respect to what happened because I’m still not familiar with the facts of that tragic incident,” he said while extending his condolences to the family of the victim.
“We are constantly looking at things we can do with respect to construction areas, with respect to all of the different things that we’re doing to make sure that cyclists and pedestrians can be safer and to stop this kind of things from happening.”
Meanwhile, Maria said her son had just graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic Academy and was planning on attending Centennial College in September for electrical engineering. She said at the time he was killed he was just out for a bike ride and was on his way home.