Family of man hit by cyclist pleads for bike lanes
A man rides on the sidewalk, right past where Brian Okamoto and his sister, Karen, leave flowers and a sign where their dad was hit while walking. (Rick Madonik/The Toronto Star)
Nobu Okamoto spent his final days at Toronto Western Hospital, unable to see, move or speak to the loved ones at his side.
His son, Brian, 35, whispered, “I love you” into his ear while his daughter, Karen, 31, often turned on the radio so her baseball-loving father could listen to the Blue Jays play.
Last Monday, the 74-year-old father of three died, several weeks after he was struck by a cyclist while walking on Finch Ave. W., near Sentinel Rd. He was going to the bank.
The 33-year-old cyclist was handed a ticket for riding on a sidewalk in North York, a fine of $3.75.
On Wednesday morning, Brian Okamoto and his sister, Karen, took a bouquet of flowers to the scene where their father was hit.
A nearby hydro pole was transformed into a tribute for the man they fondly remembered as a caring father with a penchant for telling jokes.
“It’s been really tough, no question about it. My mom is really stressed out and we’re just trying to be strong about it,” said Brian. “It’s just been really upsetting.”
Police said Okamoto was struck around 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 4, suffering head injuries, cuts and scrapes to the right side of his body. His family said Okamoto also had a fractured skull, dislocated shoulder and internal bleeding.
An autopsy is currently being done.
The “concerned and remorseful” cyclist remained on the scene, according to a police report.
Investigators are looking at possibly charging the cyclist because of Okamoto’s death, his children said. However, Staff Sgt. Leah Gilfoy of 31 Division was unable to confirm that.
Last month, a cyclist struck a 56-year-old woman, fracturing her skull after she fell onto the paved road. The 49-year-old man was charged with careless driving and fined $400 under the Highway Traffic Act.
Drivers who injure or kill a person can be charged criminally with dangerous driving. However, the charge only covers motorized vehicles.
The Finch Ave. W. sidewalk, between Sentinel Rd. and Tobermory Dr., is frequently used by cyclists as well as pedestrians. The slight slope means westbound cyclists often accelerate to fast speeds, said Brian Okamoto.
During Wednesday’s visit to the area, the siblings had to step onto the grass several times to avoid oncoming cyclists.
“I try not to get angry or upset anymore, but you still feel it in your blood when you see it,” Brian said.
Although Nobu Okamoto was a private man, who enjoyed walking on the waterfront and reading newspapers at the Toronto Reference Library, his children decided to share their story to highlight the dangers of sidewalk cycling.
“I just want justice done because I’m a cyclist too,” said Brian. “I think there needs to be more enforcement. I ride my bike downtown and I see dangerous things happening all the time.
“It’s not safe at all.”
The Okamoto family recently told local councillor Anthony Perruzza about the incident, pleading for more bike lanes to increase safety.
While civil litigation against the cyclist is an option, the family hasn’t entertained the idea.
“We haven’t committed to anything yet,” said Brian. “We’re just grieving now.”
--Liem Vu, Staff Reporter