Others have written much more eloquently than I can manage about the tragic, horrifying death of 21-year-old Isaak Kornelsen, who lost his life while cycling on Whyte Avenue in late August, and the infrastructure deficit that put him in danger. I refer you to their posts:
- Mourning A Fellow Cyclist and Riding For Isaak on Breaking Chains and Taking Lanes (with links to news reports and other blog posts)
- Why Didn’t He Just Ride Down 83rd Ave? on Boots On The Ground
- RIP Isaak Kornelsen and What Now? Making Whyte Ave Safer For Cyclists Part 1 and Part 2 on Green Edmonton
- Where Do Bikes Fit In On Roads? from iNews880 (with comments from… the Alberta Motor Association?!?)
- Better Bike Infrastructure by city councillor Ben Henderson
My heart breaks for Isaak Kornelsen’s family and many friends, and I feel I am poorer for not having known him. Certainly the world is poorer without him.
I still feel ill whenever I think of the accident – and the ignorant, callous, victim-blaming comments I have seen made in certain quarters. The attitude that cyclists and pedestrians are inconveniences and obstacles to legitimate road traffic, instead of real people, particularly upsets me. Some have suggested banning the use of bicycles on Whyte altogether, and forcing cyclists to use the side streets, which misses the point that road safety is about making streets safe for everyone, not removing vulnerable users from them. I’m convinced that adding off-street parking in the form of another parkade and using what is now a parking lane to create a separated bike lane along Whyte Avenue would be a win-win for cyclists and motorists. If only it didn’t take a ‘freak accident’ completely preventable death to catalyze these important conversations about road safety and incomplete infrastructure.
(Isaak Kornelsen was not the only Edmontonian to needlessly lose their life while on a bicycle this year, although his death is being more widely mourned. While on a cycling vacation with her husband in July, 63-year-old Elizabeth Ann Sovis was struck from behind by a van driven by a man with multiple prior convictions for drunk driving. Follow up reports stressed that she was a cautious bicyclist, and Cycling PEI held a small memorial ride for her. The narrow, shoulderless country roads of PEI probably won’t get any infrastructure upgrades, despite the promotion of the province as a cycle touring destination. The driver will go to trial this autumn. Ms Sovis was a French teacher, close to retirement, and her death has played out as a private tragedy because of her age and the location of her accident – but it was just as preventable.)