A crash that killed two cyclists on a cross-country fundraising tour has led to renewed calls for the Manitoba government to pave the shoulders of the Trans-Canada Highway in the province.
RCMP said a group of four cyclists were struck by a Honda Civic just after noon Sunday on the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Virden, in western Manitoba near the Saskatchewan border.
Two men were killed: a 50-year-old man from St.-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., and a 45-year-old man from Kelowna, B.C.
Two teens, the children of the Quebec man, were sent to hospital; a boy has been released, while his sister remains in hospital in stable condition.
RCMP have not released the names of the cyclists in the crash, but posts on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's website and the family's blog identify the Quebec man as Daniel Hurtubise, who was cycling across the country with his son Alexandre, 19, and 16-year-old daughter Sonia.
The family left Vancouver on June 14 on the trip, dubbed the "Ride of a Lifetime," with a goal of reaching St. John's, N.L., on Aug. 12. They had hoped to raise $500,000 for the foundation on their journey, according to the website.
Highway in the area 'horrendous': cyclist
The crash is still under investigation, but some in the area have speculated that the highway shoulders — which are gravel, forcing the cyclists on the roadway — are partly to blame.
John Mohan, who recently cycled from Calgary to Winnipeg as a fundraiser for the Siloam Mission, a Winnipeg homeless shelter he directs, described the highway in the area as "horrendous."
The Trans-Canada in Manitoba is in worse shape than in Alberta or Saskatchewan, he said.
"When you hit the Manitoba border, between the border and Winnipeg, over half of it is gravel shoulders, and the highways are in really bad shape going eastbound," he said.
"It was the least enjoyable part of the whole trip."
Mohan also recommended that signs be installed cautioning drivers that cyclists also use the highway.
Larry Maguire, Tory MLA for the Arthur-Virden area and transportation critic in the Tories' shadow cabinet, said he has been lobbying for paved shoulders since discussions began about increasing the speed limit on the highway to 110 km/h.
"I was more concerned about traffic, to be honest, with conditions of vehicles, cars and this sort of thing happening, rather than a cyclist as much. But certainly for cyclists there is no shoulder for them to be on," he said.
The condition of the highway surface itself has also been deteriorating, Maguire said.
"It's Canada's major trade route, the No. 1 Highway, and it seems there has to be a tragic accident like this before there's heed paid to it. And that's really unfortunate," he said.
Paving done as highways upgraded: province
Doug McMahon, assistant executive director for Manitoba Infrastructure, said most of Manitoba's highway system was designed in the 1940s and 1950s, when shoulders weren't paved.
As highways are upgraded or twinned, the shoulders are being paved, he said.
The particular section of the Trans-Canada Highway where the cyclists were killed was constructed in the 1960s, McMahon said. It is not scheduled to be upgraded in the near future, he said.
McMahon did not know exactly how much it cost to pave a highway's shoulders, but described it as very expensive.
Cyclists have every right to be on the highway, he said. If they are taking part in cycling marathons, he recommended they obtain appropriate permits and have a vehicle travel behind them with flashing lights to warn motorists.
He said the province could examine Mohan's suggestion about posting signs advising motorists to share the road with cyclists.
No charges laid
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish alleged a 27-year-old man from Virden was driving the Honda Civic that hit the cyclists. His name has not been released.
Investigators are still trying to determine what happened, Karpish said, adding that it does not appear alcohol or weather conditions were factors in the crash.
"No one's been arrested or charged in connection with the collision right now," she said. "The driver from Virden, we know where he is and who he is, so we can do that at a later time, once we have all the facts gathered."
RCMP have determined that a support vehicle travelling with the group had driven ahead of them at the time of the crash.