Trucker's comment provokes Twitter anger after Ottawa cyclist's death

Three days after a truck driver was charged in the death of an Ottawa cyclist, the head of the Greater Ottawa Truckers Association is defending truck drivers, saying bikes shouldn't have been made equal to trucks on the road.

Nusrat Jahan, 23, died after being hit by dump truck while cycling along Laurier bike lane

A Tomlinson heavy truck struck and killed 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan as she was cycling along Laurier Avenue West the morning of Sept. 1. The truck driver was last week charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. (CBC)

Three days after a truck driver was charged in the death of an Ottawa cyclist, the head of the Greater Ottawa Truckers Association is defending truck drivers, saying bikes shouldn't have been made equal to trucks on the road.

Ron Barr, president of the Greater Ottawa Truckers Association, was a guest on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday.

He told host Robyn Bresnahan he questions the severity of the charges laid against Steven Conley after a crash on Laurier Avenue in downtown Ottawa claimed the life of 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan on Sept. 1.

The charges against Conley include criminal negligence causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and dangerous driving causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

"Any time we hear charges like that, it's pretty drastic for our industry. ... So just to make a mistake and do a right-hand turn, and to have those kind of charges levied, it's pretty heavy damage," Barr said.

"I believe it's devastating for our industry because one of our members made a mistake that day. I think it's devastating for the family of the dead girl, paramedics, just everybody. It was just a tragic, tragic day for everybody. And nobody wants to go to work, Robyn, and ... be the cause of somebody not going home. It's just one of those things."

A funeral for Nusrat Jahan was held on Saturday. (courtesy of family)

Barr said he believes bikes should not have been made equal to trucks on the road, and bikes should not have the right of way over trucks turning right at every intersection.

"What amazes me is that the bikes have precedence over trucks or vehicles. They have those green boxes right at the front of the light. So what I would like to see is that whatever corners that are used to turn right are dealt with a little bit better," he said, adding he would like another stop sign for cyclists far back from the intersection.

"Because let's face it: I never believed that a bike should be equal to a truck. The tie goes to the truck every time, so we've got to use some provisions to make sure they're back, and that trucks have the right of way when they're going to turn right at certain designated corners."

After being told by Bresnahan that some people might find his comments "disturbing," Barr said, "so be it."

"If I'm not at the table discussing with the bikers, we cannot be relegated to second or third class on the road. There's no question about that. We need to move the city. Without a truck, nothing moves. That's all."

Barr also said some discussions he's had with cyclist advocates haven't gone the way he'd like them to.

"[They're] very aggressive to push their cause. I believe we need somebody at the table to say, 'Yes, we will work with you to do what we have to do.' ... But we seem not to get invited to these groups and they come out with these special rules for bikes and my goodness gracious," Barr said.

"We still have to move vehicles, there's a lot of construction going on downtown, everybody wants Ottawa built for 2017, there's a lot of traffic down there. ... And people have to realize, these trucks are big. When you're right beside a truck, it's very very difficult for the driver to see ... [you]."

Barr added that the trucking association will be doing some public service announcements on how trucks turn right and how to handle them.

Social media reaction

Cyclists responded swiftly to Barr's comments on Twitter.