From today's Globe and Mail:
Cyclist rammed by taxi driver loses leg
Incident leaves man in critical condition and residents traumatized from 'horrible situation'
PETER CHENEY AND JOSH WINGROVE
November 15, 2008
The relationship between Toronto's cyclists and car drivers has always been an uneasy one - and yesterday it took a violent turn when a late-night standoff ended with a taxi ramming a bicycle rider, severing his leg.
"It's a horrible situation," said Bernadette Matos, who operates the Luna Cafe, just metres from the site of the incident, at the corner of Dovercourt Road and Argyle Street in southwest Toronto. Ms. Matos arrived at her café to find a scene straight out of a television crime show: the street was blocked by police vehicles, the sidewalk was flooded with blood and forensic experts were combing the area.
As she quickly learned, a tragic confrontation had taken place in the early hours of yesterday morning. Shortly after 2 a.m., residents were awoken by the sound of a high-decibel argument between two men - a cyclist and the driver of a Beck taxicab. Moments later, there was a loud collision followed by a sickening crunch and the sound of a man desperately screaming for help.
Several residents arrived on the street to see the taxi zooming away to the south, and the cyclist lying on the sidewalk, with his leg hanging by a few "shreds of gristle" as one witness described it. The cyclist, believed to be in his 30s, was taken to hospital with injuries that were described as "critical and life-threatening."
Toronto police said the cab driver called them about three hours later and gave a rambling, disjointed account of the incident, suggesting that a robbery or assault may have been involved. The driver then appeared at Toronto Police Traffic headquarters in Liberty Village, and was questioned for several hours. He was released, but police told him to stay in the city as the investigation continues.
"This is a fluid situation," police spokesman Sergeant Tim Burrows said. "We're working toward a clear picture of what actually happened."
Sgt. Burrows said police gathered evidence yesterday about what the driver was doing during the three hours that elapsed between the collision and his first call to police. Interviews with witnesses and others familiar with the case suggest that police are waiting to speak with the cyclist before deciding on criminal charges. Although several people heard the encounter and saw its aftermath, it seems that no one but the perpetrator and the victim witnessed the actual collision.
The cyclist was reported to be in critical condition late yesterday after undergoing a leg amputation. "He's in very rough shape," Sgt. Burrows said.
Gail Souter, the owner of Beck Taxi, said she was shocked by what had happened. "This is a tragic situation," she said. "A man lost his leg, and now he's fighting for his life. We're all shocked."
Ms. Souter said the driver involved in the incident leased the car for night shifts from another driver, who owns the taxi as well as the city-issued cab licence. Ms. Souter called the taxi owner repeatedly yesterday, but didn't get a return call. She said the driver involved in the collision with the cyclist is "a family man," and she has never heard anything but positive reports about him.
"We're as much in the dark as everyone else," she said. "We need to find out what actually happened."
Many local residents quickly categorized the incident as a violent manifestation of the animosity between car drivers and bicycle riders in Canada's largest city.
"This speaks to how badly cyclists get treated," said John Rodgers, a 24-year-old University of Toronto student who came to the Luna Cafe yesterday, and was stunned to hear what had taken place just hours before. "It's an extreme case, but it shows you the tensions."
The bloody incident left local residents traumatized. A woman named Tanya, who asked that her last name not be used, said her sleep was shattered by a loud argument on the street outside. By the time she was fully awake, the arguing had stopped, replaced by the sound of the cyclist yelling expletives at the cab driver. Then she heard an impact, followed by a distinct crunch.
The woman ran to her bedroom window and looked down to see a cab parked on the wrong side of the street in front of her home, facing south. Seconds later, the cab accelerated away to the south, toward Queen Street. When she arrived on the street, the woman found the victim sitting on the pavement in a pool of blood, his leg almost severed and screaming for help and yelling "stop."
"Once I came around the tree, it was pretty obvious his leg was gone," Tanya said. "There was a lot of blood ... His leg was gone. It was shredded. There were basically bones sticking out...."
The man was about a metre away from a steel pole that was bent by the force of the collision. Parts of his shattered bike were scattered around him. Tanya said the man wasn't wearing reflective clothes, and had a beard and long hair pulled back by a bandana.
Paramedics arrived almost immediately, she said, just before the man passed out. Tanya said she was unable to sleep for the rest of the night, and spent yesterday looking at cabs, hoping to spot the one she saw leaving the scene. "This is already burned forever in my memory," she said.
A woman who lives directly above the crash site said she ran to her window after hearing the impact in time to see the cyclist, in a bulky jacket and dark pants, sitting on the pavement. He rocked back and forth while screaming, tried to take his backpack off, and soon after keeled over and stopped moving.
"And then we started seeing blood," she said, miming a rapidly expanding circle with both hands. "The blood just came faster and faster. I've never seen anybody bleed that fast."