There was a particularly horrific incident on King Street in downtown Toronto on Monday night. A young man is dead and a taxi driver has been charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly drove into the victim deliberately. The picture (shown at the top of this post) of the scene is quite disturbing: a partly-broken skateboard leaning on the curb, blood staining the road and curbside next to a storm drain. If the cabbie is found to actually have used his car as a weapon, then I hope there is a very long jail sentence in store, followed by the loss of his license for the rest of his life.
But there is another side to this story that is being lost in the horror of the driver's actions. The man who was killed was riding his skateboard on King Street (that is to say, not on the sidewalk) in a busy part of downtown Toronto (near Jarvis) at the tail end of rush hour. He was 28 years old, meaning presumably "old enough to know better" and what he was doing is absolutely illegal. From the Toronto Municipal Code, 400-14A:
"...where there are sidewalks, no person upon roller skates or a skateboard, or riding in or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle or similar device, shall go upon a roadway except for the purposes of crossing the road..."Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not for a moment saying that if you are doing something incredibly reckless or even illegal that you deserve to be killed. I do not subscribe to the "blame the victim" stance of so many people. I am also not saying that I feel any empathy for the cabbie; no matter what the skateboarder may or may not have done to him or his cab in the moments before the collision, if he actually did deliberately hit this man with his car then there should be no wiggle room. A car is a lethal weapon and the moment you wield it in that way you should be treated as if you pulled a gun on someone and shot them. And I am also not saying that the skateboarder would have been 100% safe on the sidewalk had there been a previous altercation that led to this tragedy.
But at some point one has to take some responsibility for one's own safety and well-being. If you're going to be skateboarding through traffic in the downtown core of your country's biggest city in rush hour (presumably, judging from the head trauma, with no protection of any kind) then sooner or later the odds are going to catch up with you whether there was intention to hurt you or not. This story, while it is still fresh, offers a perfect opportunity for anyone concerned about the number of pedestrians (for that's virtually what this skateboarder was) who are killed by cars in Toronto each year to do some educating. There are some proponents for the idea that we need lower speed limits in the city. While it's possible that this might cut down on the fatalities each year, nobody ever seems to be attacking the number of accidents between pedestrians and cars. It seems to me that this is a perfect time to do exactly that.
If you're not supposed to be on the road... then get off the road as quickly as possible. It's very easy logic. You - and only you - are ultimately responsible for your own safety once you reach the age where you are walking around independently. If you are killed while you are doing something reckless and stupid then no jail sentence or public shaming or contrition of the person who killed you is going to breathe life back into your body or be of any comfort to your survivors.
Did Ralph Bissonnette deserve to die? Of course not. But once the smoke clears from the shock of this incident, I truly hope someone responsible for our public safety steps forward and says, "You know, while we're on the subject...."