By now, many of us have heard about Nusrat Jahan, a 23 year old women (and diplomat’s daughter) who was killed while cycling in a segregated bike lane in downtown Ottawa on her way to school last week. She was hit by a large construction truck that was turning right from Laurier Avenue onto Lyon Street (the so-called ‘right hook’ when a vehicle makes a right turn immediately in front of a cyclist).
In response to this tragic incident, David Reevely, a journalist with the Ottawa Citizen, wrote an interesting piece entitled “ The first step to safe streets is really wanting them“. In it, he argues, as have many others, that it’s not enough for politicians to earnestly declare that they want to make the city a bicycle haven, but allow the municipal bureaucracy to carry on with old attitudes that treat cycling, and cycling safety, as an afterthought.
Presumably, the truck driver didn’t see Nusrat Jahan when making the right turn onto Lyon, which also raises the issue of blind spots around large trucks. Over the years, trucking organizations have sponsored information campaigns, some targeted specifically at cyclists, showing all the blind spots that should be avoided around large trucks. The message is very clear: if a truck hits someone in one of these blind spots, it’s the fault of the person being hit, and not the truck driver.
Truckers should not be allowed to use these blind spots as a ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’ when they hit someone. Trucks should be required to have the necessary windows and mirrors (and nowadays, cameras) to eliminate blind spots and allow the drivers to see what’s happening around their vehicles. If they hit a cyclist when making a ‘right hook’, they should be held fully accountable.
Hopefully, Nusrat Jahan’s death will lead to improvements in bicycle safety in Ottawa, but we can’t count on it. Three years ago, 38-year-old Mario Théoret was killed while commuting to work on his bicycle in very similar circumstances. He was riding in a dedicated bike lane along Hunt Club Road when he was hit by a large truck making a right turn. The Police investigated and 8 months later issued a curt statement indicating that no charges would be laid, and gave no explanation for their decision.
Update: The driver of the large construction truck that killed Nusrat Jahan has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
.Share this with others: