Jenna Morrison

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Jenna Morrison
Monday, November 7, 2011
Age: 38

Sterling and Dundas
Toronto , ON

From The Star

On Monday, Morrison
was riding to her son’s school alone at about 11:30 a.m. She had his
helmet with her and was wearing her own.

She had just turned
right off Sterling Rd. and moved into westbound traffic on Dundas St. W.
when the truck’s cab clipped the bicycle.

 David Topping


Bloor & Lansdowne

_Photographs: David Topping

Bercarich and Tom Denton cart Jenna Morrison's ghost bike along Bloor
Street West from Bike Pirates to the crowd of cyclists waiting at Bloor
and Spadina.

Mon Nov 14, 2011

A ghost bike for Jenna Morrison

In the wake of this morning’s public
memorial for Jenna Morrison—the cyclist killed last week—we chart the
journey of her commemorative ghost bike from the Bike Pirates shop on
Bloor to the site of her death at Dundas and Sterling.

BY: David Topping

When Jenna Morrison was killed last Monday by a truck at Dundas Street West and Sterling Road, Geoffrey Bercarich knew what he was going to have to do next.

Back on April 20, 2006, two cyclists died in one day—16-year-old
Bianca Gogel Masella at Keele Street and Finch Avenue West, and
University of Toronto professor Dr. Hubert Van Tol at Avenue Road and
Cortleigh Boulevard. Both were hit by trucks. Bercarich, then a student
at York University, made what’s called a “ghost bike” for each of them,
coating a salvaged bike with white paint and placing it where Masella
and Van Tol were killed. Those two ghost bikes were the first he’d made
and, for every cyclist killed on Toronto streets since then, he’s made
another. Jenna Morrison, pregnant and on her way to pick up her young
son before being killed by a five-ton Freightliner truck making a right
turn, would be Bercarich’s 18th ghost bike.

Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists
(ARC) has been organizing memorials for killed cyclists, like the one
that would come for Morrison, since 1996. The ghost bikes are part of a
newer, worldwide
initiative: ARC started making and installing them in Toronto in the
early 2000s, according to Derek Chadbourne, one of the group’s original
members and the owner of the Bike Joint on Harbord Street. Before Bercarich joined the group, someone else made the bikes; now, he does.

Usually, when a cyclist is killed, ARC approaches the family a few
days after the death. “We just want to make sure that before we do any
kind of memorial that they’re involved, that they’re comfortable with
it, [and that they have input on] what kind of memorial it should be,”
says Martin Reis, a long-time member. “The ghost bike can be a healing
thing, or it can be something that’s too much of a constant reminder.”

This time, ARC members knew the cyclist they’d be honouring. It isn’t the first time. Bercarich got to work.

“These are bikes that are at the end of their life, and so they meet these cyclists at the end of their lives,” says Bercarich.

It’s the Thursday after Morrison was killed, and Bercarich is in the alley behind Bike Pirates
on Bloor Street West near Lansdowne Avenue, spraying another coat of
white paint on top of what was once a baby-blue Supercycle—what will be
Jenna’s ghost bike. (Strands of white paint have dripped to the ground
below the bike; it looks like stuck-on silly string.) Only the worst
bikes get turned into ghost bikes: Bike Pirates, where Bercarich
volunteers, takes donations, and this one would have been thrown out, or
donated to scrap-metal collectors, otherwise. The bike’s all but
unrideable as-is, but Bercarich breaks the Supercycle’s chain
anyway; the last thing you’d want is for it to be stolen.

The ghost bike itself looks more unreal the closer you get to
it—fake, sticky, plastic, as though it couldn’t ever have been usable.
Once it’s set in place, it will be next to impossible to miss. ”It’s
like a lighthouse, in so many ways,” says Bercarich. “It’s a beacon that
people can see and be warned that this is a dangerous part of the
road.” Attention, not distraction, is the point. “I want motorists to
notice them. I want them to notice those ghost bikes, and maybe they’ll
keep an eye out for cyclists….there’s something inside them that makes
them understand that something bad happened at that corner.”

“I think that it’s a beautiful image and that the family will appreciate it,” says Matthew Remski,
a close friend of Morrison’s and a co-owner of Renaissance Yoga, the
Cabbagetown studio where she once worked. “It’s a wonderful symbol. I
think they’d probably want to change the name of it to ‘spirit bike.’”
He laughs. “But I think they’ll enjoy it.” If they don’t, says
Bercarich, “I’ll give them my personal number, I’ll take it down, I’ll
probably hold onto the keys. Because I understand.” Only one family has
ever asked.

Usually, the family doesn’t have to, anyway. It’s the City of
Toronto’s policy to remove “temporary memorials”—a category under which
ghost bikes would fall—after 30 days. “After a while, they tend to get
abandoned and ignored,” explains Daniel Egan, the City’s manager of
cycling infrastructure and programs. “You see abandoned bikes out there
that get trashed after a while. They start to rust and fall apart.” But,
he’s careful to point out, “we’re very sensitive to it. That’s why
we’ve come up with a 30-day policy.” Most of Toronto’s ghost bikes have
been removed since being installed, but a small handful have been left
alone. (Those white memorial bikes are not to be confused with the
multi-coloured bicycles that were part of the Good Bike Project, which were sanctioned by the City.)