Driver Sheila Perry says she was on her way back from the grocery store last Thursday when she saw the fatal collision that left a 43-year-old Ottawa cyclist dead.
“This is just the most horrible nightmare that you do not want anyone,” she said.
Perry said she was stopped at the north end of the intersection between North River Road and Donald Street when she saw a female cyclist wearing a purple helmet stopped on the west side, down from the Adàwe Crossing Bridge and the Rideau Sports Center.
A grader from the City of Ottawa was behind the cyclist, Perry said, but then she saw it pull forward and turn right and overtake the cyclist.
Perry called 911 and later made a statement to Ottawa police, who are looking for other witnesses.
Police have released few details about the collision, which happened shortly before 5pm east of the core. Footage from the scene showed that the bike was under the grader.
It is the 11th cyclist death in the city since January 2016 and the first in 2022.
“My heart goes out to the family. Huge, huge loss. I can not even begin to imagine,” Perry said of the cyclist, who has not been publicly identified. “And similarly for the driver.”
Perry, who is a resident of the Overbrook neighborhood, said she speaks out because she wants a positive change to come out of the collision.
It was a busy time of day in terms of traffic and she would like to know what the supervisor was doing out there at the time, she said.
“This is more than just cycling. I think that [city] operations need to be reviewed, “Perry said, adding that she hopes the grade driver’s field of vision will also be looked at.
The CBC has contacted the city to get a comment on Perry’s remarks.
SE | Witness calls for change after cyclist killed in collision with grader:
In an email, the president of the Overbrook Community Association, Heather Amys, said the group has reached out to Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King to ask for improvements to the city’s spring removal of snow and ice, for the crossing design and for the safety needs of cyclists and pedestrians.
King, who has already highlighted the neighborhood’s “long-standing” road safety concerns, pointed to the simultaneous collision investigations conducted by police and the city’s Department of Public Works.
“It’s probably inappropriate for me to comment further on the incident, especially since I did not observe it,” he said. “But I personally look forward to any recommendations that may come from both studies.”
Heidi Cousineau, the city’s program manager for calming the neighborhood’s traffic, said the city has received a survey request for North River Road between Donald Street and Wright Street to the south.
“Further information about the investigation will be communicated once the investigation has begun,” she said in an email.
“Paint will not protect you,” says the cyclist
On Sunday afternoon, members of the local bike champion group Bike Ottawa locked a painted memorial by the road, known as a ghost bike, to a post at the intersection. Both king and count. Catherine McKenney, representing Somerset Congregation, was present.
Group President Erinn Cunningham told a crowd that after two years of the pandemic, the group was eager to see each other.
“But that’s not how anyone would like it [it]. ”
The collision renewed calls to make four-way stops safer.
The intersection is a key link for pedestrians and cyclists moving between Sandy Hill and Overbrook, and is heavily traversed by cars moving to and from Cummings Bridge, said ceremony participant Ken Walker.
“Having only painted bike paths for cyclists … it’s a bit of a parody,” Walker said, referring to the bike paths that were painted just east of the intersection on Donald Street in 2017.
“There has been a lot of push to try to get separate, secure cycling infrastructure throughout the city. It’s clear that we’re focusing on this intersection today and we need to keep up the pressure,” Walker said.
In his email, the association’s chairman said that traffic taking a shortcut to avoid the Vanier Parkway has always been an issue at the intersection.
Amys said a raised bike path or physically separated lanes like the ones the city has installed elsewhere could be a better long-term solution.
Overbrook resident Dave Weatherall, who also attended Sunday’s ghost bike ceremony, said protected lanes are what is needed.
“Paint will not protect you from an out of control car,” he said.
A draft version of the city’s Transportation Master Plan update proposes bike paths on North River Road north of Stevens Avenue, which is just north of Donald.
Zlatko Krstulic, a transportation planner at the City of Ottawa, said in an email that projects in the master plan are in the public consultation phase, with approval expected in early 2023.