● Death by ‘right hook’ – time to improve cycling safety, but will there be real change?

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.


4 Comments on ● Death by ‘right hook’ – time to improve cycling safety, but will there be real change?

  1. bikes shouldn’t be equal to trucks because they are bigger, as per http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/trucker-cyclist-death-ottawa-morning-1.3757977

    friggen bizarre thinking, such is our hill billy country though… bunch of hicks..
    Places like Copenhagen are miles and miles ahead of us…
    we’ve got a lot of falling down to do before we ever change. We’re like a bad drunk.

  2. on another note – should be covering something on the bridge as well. Here’s a petition – https://www.change.org/p/city-of-ottawa-keep-the-prince-of-wales-bridge-open?tk=PbEozSnp0V20XA4kYubcn8xtdoIpENzNtaXvG7BAX6w&utm_source=petition_update&utm_medium=email I noticed they are tearing up preston now, this is money that could have been spent on the PoW bridge for cycling …

  3. One way to reduce cycling -car accidents as well as to rebalance the motorist – cyclist debate is to introduce Provincial laws on “Presumed Liability” where in the case of Car cyclist accidents the car driver is presumed guilty unless otherwise proven.

    Key facts:

    In most western European countries, the bigger vehicle is presumed responsible in collisions, and/or motor vehicles are held strictly liable for injuries to non-motorised users (NMUs). The exceptions are the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.

    In collisions between pedal cycles and cars, 99% of the cyclists are injured, but only just over 2% of car occupants.

    However in road crashes involving pedal cycles and one other vehicle, cyclists are about half as likely to be at fault than the other party.

    See The Following UK URL for a discussion of this topic.


    The article reccomends taking out third party liability insurance is a sensible precaution for regular cyclists, but it should not be compulsory for everyone wanting to cycle.

  4. I think one of the problems is the media, there was an uprising recently about the 1.5m rule…. media would say -its cyclists fault, cyclists should have licenses, cyclists shouldn’t be on any roads over 40km/h… blah blah blah.. With the recent bike vs car via media hype, there is no wonder that cyclist incidents have gone up recently. The media is really really good at hyping people up, and as they do so people want retaliation and revenge along with retribution… sick society really. Cyclists aren’t the real threat in a “me” society of rush to go no place fast debt society… The real threat is the good ol automobile, buts its a big part of the economy eh, so why stop now while the party is going strong…

    The best that could be done on Laurier is to put advance green as they did in many other areas. Also, restrict right hand turns in some areas where i incidents have been high.

    Its hard to avoid all traffic incidents, people in a rush out there, media hypes up the cyclist vs vehicle drama, and our city (along with others) is mostly built to accommodate the good ol automobile of laziness society… a society going no place fast made up of debt mostly.

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