Ottawa councillors approve 6-month limit for roadside memorials

The city's transportation committee has voted in favour of Coun. David Chernushenko's motion to remove ghost bikes and other roadside memorials after six months.

City staff originally recommended ghost bikes and crosses be taken down after 3 months

A ghost bike sits at the corner of Bank St. and Riverside Dr., where cyclist Meg Dussault was hit and killed by a cement truck in July 2013. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

City councillors on Ottawa's transportation committee have approved a policy for roadside memorials Wednesday that will see ghost bikes, crosses and other roadside memorials be allowed for a maximum of six months.

Staff originally recommended a three-month limit, when asked to come up with an approach for the impromptu memorials. More and more families and friends are erecting them as a way to honour someone who died tragically in a road incident, but there are also concerns they encroach on roadways and distract drivers.

Residents, however, had a lot to say about the idea of taking them down after three months.

"We had everything from there should be no limit on these at all, to people who think they shouldn't be there at all — and everything in between," said transportation committee chair Keith Egli. "Part of this is, obviously, about road safety and accessibility. Part of this is about how a person chooses to grieve."

Egli said the public feedback led him and Coun. David Chernushenko, who had requested the report, to discuss it further and find a "reasonable compromise."

At committee Wednesday, Chernushenko tabled a motion to set the limit at six months. Under the new policy, memorials will have to "occupy as little of the sidewalk as possible," and all elements of a memorial must be "adequately secured to each other and to a fixed object" such as a pole or barrier.

If approved by city council, the City of Ottawa will not have staff patrolling streets to identify memorials, Egli said. Instead, crews will take roadside memorials down within six months of someone complaining about it to the 3-1-1 information number or gets in touch with a councillor.