Ghost bikes targetted by new bylaw

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Paddy Dussault cleans the area by his wife, Meg Dussault's, ghost bike at the corner of Bank St. and Riverside Dr. Thursday March 05, 2015. Meg Dussault was struck and killed by a truck July 2013. (Postmedia Files)

By Sam Cooley, Ottawa Sun

Paddy Dussault said he isn't going to be battling the city if someone shows up to haul away the "ghost bike" he maintains on a weekly basis.

City staffers released a potential bylaw on Wednesday which--if enacted--will allow a 90-day grace period for mourning friends and family to erect "roadside memorials" of loved ones killed in accidents. But after the 90 days, the memorial will be removed for public safety while attempting to tread the line of being compassionate.

This law would affect the ghost bike memorializing Dussault's wife, Meg, who died at age 55 when she was struck by a dump truck in 2013 in the intersection of Bank St. and Riverside Dr.

He's been a guardian to the spot--albeit on public property--ever since, by shovelling the snow or picking the weeds as needed.

"I know there are a large number (of ghost bikes) Some are maintained, some are not. In my wife's bike's case, we maintain it as a memorial to Meg. And as a reminder to truck drivers to slow down," he said.

But he told the Sun he doesn't expect to be treated as a special case because the city has to regulate "with broad strokes."

A similar accident occurred when Danielle Nacu was struck and killed in 2011 while on a bicycle.

Her father, Tom Nacu, said he doesn't maintain the ghost bike because he lives in Brampton.

"I have no objection. I have no idea who's looking after it," he said.

 

A former safety advocate against roadside memorials, Emile Therien, took credit for the parameters of the bylaw.

"Oh, I had a long chain of emails going right back to the mayor on them. I recommend they adopt the bylaws in place in the city of Winnipeg," said Therien, adding that memorials can become distracting for drivers.

The law targets and restricts the size of all roadside memorials, such as crosses stuck to trees or telephone poles.

"A lot of people resent that," Therien said.

Coun. David Chernushenko said councillors are fearing they're being callous and opening wounds by regulating memorials put up by loved ones.

"In the end, it is public space. And private use of a public space can not be forever and there are many ways someone (can) memorialize their loved one over the long term," he said.

Chernushenko said a flurry of letters were received six to eight months ago which were either in favour for, or against roadside memorials. Some people, he said, view them as unnecessarily prompting people to think about death while others see it as a reminder to keep their eyes on the road.

The bylaw will be debated at a transportation committee at City Hall next Wednesday.

-- with files from Jon Willing