'Very disappointed': Bike community reacts to speeding charge in cyclist's death
RCMP lays single charge in fatal 2018 crash, says cyclist 'contributed' to collision
The RCMP's decision to lay a single speeding charge against the driver involved in a collision that killed an Ottawa cyclist last December is raising mixed emotions among bike safety advocates.
Junfeng Wu, 40, was struck and killed by a taxi while on his way to work on Dec. 7, 2018, at the intersection of Slidell Street and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.
RCMP said the driver was going 94 km/h through the intersection, well above the parkway's 60 km/h speed limit.
They also suggested the cyclist "contributed" to the early morning crash by "disobeying" the red light, not wearing reflective clothing and using a pair of of earbud headphones.
For Bruce Fanjoy, a cycling advocate and volunteer with Bike Ottawa, both the single charge and the RCMP's comments have left him "very disappointed."
"I think that the fact that someone died needs to be reflected in the charge," said Fanjoy. "This is just a speeding ticket, and it totally devalues the life lost."
Fanjoy said the RCMP statement seemed to blame Wu for his own death, and that the driver's speed should eclipse any actions the cyclist did or didn't take.
'We all take that personally'
"We all feel vulnerable," said Fanjoy, who was at a vigil in December attended by other cyclists and Wu's widow. "And so when anyone is killed on our streets or seriously injured, we all take that personally."
That includes Eric Thibault.
Thibault helped organize Wu's vigil and create a permanent memorial at the park across from where the crash happened.
Beaucoup de gens à la veillée à la mémoire de Junfeng Wu, souvent venus à vélo et des deux côtés de la rivière. Merci à Éric et Natasha pour l’organisation et à nos amis gatinois d’être venus. <a href="https://twitter.com/velooutaouais?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@velooutaouais</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BikeOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BikeOttawa</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottv%C3%A9lo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottvélo</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/v%C3%A9logat?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#vélogat</a> <a href="https://t.co/T4jcvN9eZc">pic.twitter.com/T4jcvN9eZc</a>—@Flomouthe
He said he was surprised by the RCMP's findings, but noted the police investigation gives riders something to think about — in particular, the danger of wearing headphones while cycling in traffic.
Thibault said the driver's speed wouldn't have given the cyclist "much chance of survival." Still, he was satisfied with the charge, saying he felt the driver had suffered enough.
"I feel really sad for that person," said Thibault. "I wish he would have come that day to the vigil. I would have been happy to see him there. Whatever the charge is, living with that in your mind, and what he has to carry for the rest of his life, is already a burden."
Ottawa's cycling community also weighed in on the RCMP's findings on social media.
I just rode home on my bike. Black pants and a grey shirt, because that's what I wore at work today. Not high-vis. I also used earbuds, but had no problem being aware of my surroundings. Did not contribute to a collision.—@heatshear
An update on Junfeng Wu, the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottbike?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottbike</a> killed on the SJAM Pkwy. <a href="https://twitter.com/RCMP_Nat_Div?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RCMP_Nat_Div</a> concluded that wearing earbuds and not wearing reflective clothing contributed to his death. Shameful! But driving at 94km/h in a 60 zone? Here’s some demerit points. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VisionZero?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VisionZero</a> <a href="https://t.co/OLZotemth2">https://t.co/OLZotemth2</a>—@spotmaticfan
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. John Graziono would not comment on public feedback about the charge, but said the investigation — which occurred in collaboration with the Ottawa Police Service's collision investigation unit — was thorough.
The Capital Taxi driver will face a fine for speeding when he appears in court in June.