News / Vancouver

Cyclist's death casts shadow over Vancouver bike to work week

On the eve of bike to work week, Vancouver's cycling community was shaken by the death of a fellow rider who collided with a city bus on her way to work.

Just before 7 p.m. Saturday, a 61-year-old woman was riding on the sidewalk next to the Stanley Park Causeway near the Lions Gate bridge when she bumped into a pedestrian. The impact sent her tumbling into busy traffic and she was fatally struck by a West Vancouver bus, said police spokesperson Const. Brian Montague.

Although riding on the sidewalk is generally forbidden in the city, she was complying with signage requiring cyclists and pedestrians share the sidewalk, said Montague.

Saturday's fatality is a tragedy on its own, but the timing makes the incident all the more poignant.

On Monday, more than 2,000 commuters from around Metro Vancouver will swap their vehicles for bicycles to commemorate Bike To Work Week, an annual event meant to encourage commuters to cycle.

However, Coun. Geoff Meggs, an avid cyclist, doesn't believe the fatality will discourage commuters from cycling this week.

“It's tragic, but it doesn't mean cycling is unsafe,” said Meggs, who was himself hospitalized in 2010 when the bike he was riding collided with a Mercedes.

The majority of Metro Vancouver's cyclists log thousands of kilometres without incident, he added.

Indeed, the City of Vancouver has 255 kilometres of bike lanes, including 46 kilometres of separated and off-road bike paths. And although bike trips in Metro Vancouver increased 35 per cent between 2008 and 2012, collisions increased by just 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, fatalities in the region have declined dramatically: Zero cyclists died on the road in 2012, down from six in 2008 and four in 2009 and 2010.

However, Erin O'Melinn, executive director of HUB, the organization that puts on bike to work week in Metro Vancouver said the city could be doing more to ensure a safe commute for cyclists.

“I think this is a really tragic, important example of the need in that specific spot to improve that infrastructure,” said O'Melinn, who has cycled the Stanley Park Causeway herself.

“There's not enough room for everyone (on the sidewalk).”

Following the incident, the Lions Gate Bridge was shut down for hours Saturday night as investigators interviewed witnesses.

Police are still waiting took view the bus's dash cam video, and are asking any passengers on the West Van bus to contact police at 604-717-3012.

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