Vancouver council mandates side guards for city-owned heavy trucks after cyclist's death

·2 min read
Vancouver city council passed a motion Wednesday requiring trucks in the urban area to have side guards like this one in yellow in Montreal. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Vancouver city council passed a motion Wednesday requiring trucks in the urban area to have side guards like this one in yellow in Montreal. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Vancouver's city council unanimously passed a motion requiring side guards on all heavy trucks owned and contracted by the city on Wednesday.

The move comes almost a month after 28-year-old PhD student Agustín Beltrán was killed while riding his bike in the city's Yaletown neighbourhood. Beltrán was cycling in a bike lane when he collided with a dump truck making a turn at the corner of Pacific and Hornby streets on the morning of June 29.

Guard rails or side guards are long protective barriers installed between the two sets of wheels on a trailer attached to a transport, semi or other heavy truck. They're designed to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from going under the vehicle in a collision.

The City of Vancouver has jurisdiction only over the trucks it operates, meaning it cannot mandate side guards for all trucks entering Vancouver.

The motion also included a clause that will see the city write a letter to Transport Canada calling for side guard legislation on semi-trucks across the country.

Emotional pleas

Beltrán's partner and cousin both urged the city to do more to protect pedestrians and cyclists at Wednesday's council meeting, saying mandating side guards will save lives.

"I lost my partner and best friend while doing what he loved most," said Renata Rovelo Velasquez. "We biked everywhere — to work, to the supermarket, to parties," she said, adding that she and Beltrán had been training for a bike race in Whistler, B.C.

Rovelo Velasquez choked back tears as she recalled witnessing the crash "from a few metres away."

"I know that Agustín's life would have been saved if that truck had had side guards," she said. "It is also possible that other things would have saved his life: bicycle traffic signals, clear regulations on the right of way and not allowing trucks inside the downtown area."

Rodrigo Alessio, Beltrán's cousin, attended the meeting in person on behalf of the family.

"My cousin Agustín tragically lost his life while riding his bicycle from his apartment to Stanley Park," Alessio said. "Riding a bicycle in the city shouldn't be life-threatening."

Alessio said Beltrán, who was studying economics at the University of British Columbia, was kind, incredibly smart and sorely missed by his loved ones, including Alessio's young children.

Alessio and Rovelo Velasquez thanked city councillors Rebecca Bligh and Christine Boyle for hearing their concerns and bringing the motion forward.

On Wednesday, councillors also said they've already started studying and reviewing traffic planning in parts of Vancouver where right-hand turns intersect with bike paths.

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