Ottawa

Cycling advocate calls for safer roads after 3rd death of 2019

A cycling advocate in Ottawa is calling for the city to invest in safer roads and better infrastructure in the wake of Ottawa's third cyclist death this year. The fatalities are an increase from the past two years, which saw fewer cyclists killed in collisions. 

One cyclist died in 2018, while there were no deaths in 2017

Ottawa police confirmed Idan Azrad, 27, died on Tuesday, following a collision on Renaud Road earlier this month. (Jacques Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

A cycling advocate in Ottawa is calling for the city to invest in safer roads and better infrastructure in the wake of Ottawa's third cyclist death this year.

Idan Azrad, 27, died Tuesday after he was struck by a vehicle in Orléans on Aug. 7. Azrad was hit from behind on Renaud Road as he was biking to work.

Azrad's death marked the city's third fatality so far this year.

This is a very discouraging trend. It's very worrisome. ​​​​- Érinn Cunningham

In May, a 60-year-old man was killed in a hit and run as he was travelling west in a bike lane on Laurier Avenue W. In July, 13-year-old Simon Khouri died after he was critically injured in a collision with a vehicle on Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard.

A man using a motorized scooter also died this summer after he collided with an SUV on West Hunt Club Road.

"We know that cycling is growing in Ottawa at a very healthy clip, but that we need to also step up the amount we're investing into cycling safety to make sure that it remains a safe activity," said Érinn Cunningham, who sits on Bike Ottawa's board of directors. "But there's clearly more that we need to do to continue that trend toward less fatalities."

'A very discouraging trend'

The city is still reeling from the three deaths — a number that could increase before the year is out. The fatalities are an increase from the past two years, which saw fewer cyclists killed in collisions. 

According to the City of Ottawa's annual road safety data, there was one cyclist death in 2018, and none the year before. 

"This is a very discouraging trend. It's very worrisome," said Cunningham, who bikes in the city himself. "It appeared that we were on a downward trend but this year has obviously been full of tragedy."

That doesn't mean 2019 is a particularly dangerous year for cyclists to hit the road — the average number of fatalities in the past 10 years is about two.

"Generally, I think we've made good progress in starting to build safer cycling facilities. But there's sometimes a tendency to not build out cycling infrastructure that connects well to other parts to make it easier to get around the city," Cunningham said. "There are still places where ... cyclists are still forced to share the road with fast moving vehicles. I don't think we are investing enough as a city to really start closing that gap."

Interim improvements

After May's hit-and-run incident on Laurier Avenue W., the city announced a series of interim changes to the area where the collision occurred.

Those improvements include replacing yield signs with stop signs, flexible stakes along the Laurier bike lane and a bike signal at the crosswalk between Confederation Park and City Hall. 

A hit and run on Laurier Avenue W. left one cyclist dead back in May. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Bike Ottawa is also calling for a "Vision Zero" approach to bike safety, an approach that follows an international model aiming to eliminate all collisions between cyclists and vehicles. 

That means that cities won't "accept any fatalities on our roads as being acceptable and that we start designing our roads to reflect this principle," Cunningham explained.  "We recognize that people will always make mistakes on the road or bad decisions, but with proper engineering we can prevent fatalities and serious injuries."

Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney also voiced support for the approach.

But Cunningham says the city needs to work quickly following the tragedies to implement longer-term solutions that prioritize cyclist safety.

"Our roads should be built so that when collisions do happen, they don't they don't lead to tragic outcomes," he said.

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