Father of cyclist killed in Ottawa applauds coroner

The father of an Ottawa cyclist who was killed two years ago on Sussex Drive said Monday he hopes a coroner's review will help improve safety in the area.
The area on Sussex Drive where the bicycle lane merges with the bus lane, where Melanie Harris was killed in 2009. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The father of an Ottawa cyclist who was killed two years ago on Sussex Drive said Monday he hopes a coroner's review will help improve safety in the area.

Melanie Harris, 34, was struck and killed by a bus in September 2009 as she was merging from a bicycle pathway into a shared bus-bike lane.

Her father, Jim Harris, has been campaigning for safety improvements in the area ever since.

He was heartened when Ontario’s chief coroner announced Monday that there will be a review of cycling deaths in Ontario between 2006 and 2010.   Harris said he doesn't want anyone to experience what his family's been through.

Memorial for Melanie Harris who was killed while cycling on Sussex Drive in 2009. (CBC)

"It tears you apart. She was such a large part of our life," Harris said Monday.

Father pleading with city for street changes

From his home in Nanaimo, BC, he has written to Ottawa city staff and councillors pleading for changes to lanes near the Lester B. Pearson Building on Sussex Drive.

The pathway Melanie was riding on requires cyclists to cross a sidewalk, descend a curb, and then join a shared bus-bike lane.

The only change apparent in the area is a new yellow sign encouraging cyclists to walk their bike when on the sidewalk.

"To me, that's not good enough and I think the City of Ottawa has a lot to answer for," Harris said.

No one from the city was available for comment.

City trying to fix dangerous cycling areas

City staff are currently setting priorities for dealing with a list of dangerous spots for cyclists in Ottawa.

The vice president of Citizens for Safe Cycling, Alex deVries, said he hopes Monday’s announcement from the chief coroner, will bolster Harris’s cause.

"I think that's gonna hold a lot more weight than only just cycling groups raising issues," deVries said.

Harris said he hopes the coroner's review will help push the city into action.

"It's not going to bring Melanie back, but, eh, I sure as heck would like to see it fixed in that particular area," he said.

Harris said he plans to submit comments and recommendations to the Coroner's review panel.