Serious bike crash a grim reminder for Winnipeg, says advocate

A crash involving a woman on Wednesday has shaken Winnipeg's cycling community and serves an an important reminder about the importance of cycling infrastructure, a local advocate says.

'It affects everybody. Whether you're a motorist or a cyclist,' says organizer of Bike Week Winnipeg

Janice Naccarato was seriously hurt in a crash Wednesday morning riding her bike at St. Mary's Road and Fermor Avenue. (Jayce Naccarato/Facebook)

A crash involving a woman on Wednesday has shaken Winnipeg's cycling community and served as an important reminder about the importance of cycling infrastructure, a local advocate says.

Janice Naccarato was biking near the corner of St. Mary's Road and Fermor Avenue early Wednesday morning when two vehicles collided and she became pinned under one of them, an SUV.

She was found unresponsive and rushed to hospital.

A Facebook post written by her son said Naccarato is now in critical but stable condition. Doctors are still working to reduce swelling in her brain, Jayce Naccarato wrote.

He said his family is hoping to personally thank all the witnesses who stepped in and helped lift the vehicle off his mother.

CBC spoke with one of the witnesses, Kevin Harlow, who said Naccarato was wearing a helmet and "doing nothing wrong" before she was hit in the crash.

A crash involving a woman on Wednesday has shaken Winnipeg's cycling community and served as an important reminder about the importance of cycling infrastructure, a local advocate says. 1:48

The stretch of road Naccarato was biking along does not have a protected bike lane.

Harlow said he received an emotional call from Naccarato's family on Thursday.

"They were understandably very upset but very grateful as well," Harlow said.

"What I told them was I was there and I did what I could to help out and I hope it was enough. I think any Winnipegger would do the same thing in the situation I was in."

More cyclists, safer roads: advocate

Currie Gillespie, the director of Bike Week in Winnipeg and the owner of a company that sells bike racks, said the entire cycling community in the city is talking about what happened to Naccarato.

"It affects everybody. Whether you're a motorist or a cyclist," Gillespie said.

While the crash was "catastrophic," Gillespie said he hopes it does not dissuade others from cycling in Winnipeg.

"The bottom line is the more of us that are out on the road the safer it is for everybody," he said. "The more proper infrastructure there is the more safer it is for everybody."

A day prior to the crash, city councillors had been debating that very subject.

Public works chair Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) suggested Tuesday that bike lanes do not protect cyclists from traffic accidents at intersections.

While Coun. Janice Lukes, a former director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, questioned whether Morantz had fully researched the topic and pushed councillors to move ahead with adjustable downtown bike lanes.

After Wednesday's crash, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said he is still waiting on more details about what happened to Naccarato, but it's always a "concern" when cyclists are hurt on Winnipeg roads.

He added the city has vastly increased the amount it spends on biking infrastructure to better protect cyclists.

"We are making big investments up about 57 per cent this year over last year in terms of our investments for infrastructure for cycling," he said.

"We're trying to promote a culture here that would get people cycling."

Winnipeg plans to spend $4.7 million this year on conventional bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure, and another $3.6 million to extend bike lanes along Pembina Highway between DeVos Road and Killarney Avenue along with $1.6 million to create protected bike lanes on Empress Street between Portage Avenue and St. Matthews Avenue.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance there are about 180 crashes involving cyclists on public roads in Manitoba involving a bicycle.

with files from Courtney Rutherford and Bartley Kives