Bicycle Safety

Pan Am Games Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square

The bicycle is the most wondrous machine ever invented.

The first bike was developed in Mannheim, Germany in 1817.  The rider used their feet like in the Flintstones to propel the machine forward. The first bicycle with a propulsion mechanism was recorded in Scotland in 1839. The first recorded accident occurred in Glasgow in 1842.

I purchased one of the first bonded aluminum mountain bikes in 1989 – a Trek 7000. With all the doodads, it cost $1,000.   Together we have crossed a fair chunk of Canada together from Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.   Montreal is by far the best city in Canada for urban cycling.   There you will find dedicated bike routes where no cars roam.  Closing roads to cars in Toronto is only but a fantasy.

I last vacationed in Montreal in 2016. The wonderful Jean Talon market is located near the Jean Talon metro station. The market is a must visit on any trip. Rue St. Denis is a major north/south route that bisects Montreal into east and west and is the main way of travelling to the market.

Upon leaving the Jean Talon Market, I walked south on St. Denis back to towards the W hotel in old Montreal.

A ghost bicycle was chained to a railing on a bridge that crosses St. Denis. Affixed was a note and a photograph of fellow cyclist Mathilde Blais. A note from her older sister Melanie was attached – My French is so so but could feel her tears lift off the page.

Mathilde was killed by a semi truck in May 2014 while riding to work as a school speach therapist on a bixi bike.  She was 33 years of age and, according to the CBC, an avid cyclist like me.

My rage is for someone who was denied going about a normal day. Why is it that I’ve pedalled thousands of kilometers on open highways and cities alike and I’m here writing this blog while all Mathilde was doing was to trying to get to work?

The solution proposed by the Quebec government was to place skirts on semi trailers to avoid being run over.

My technology solution would be for the cyclist to carry low energy transmitter that is picked up by all vehicles equipped with a receiver. The transmitter “squawks” when it is near a moving bicycle.  This would warn the driver to inspect the perimeter of the vehicle and take action.

It is not a perfect idea,  but I hope it would suffice to prevent another fatality.   It is the least I can do in honour of Mathilde who might still be pedalling to work if she and the truck were equipped with this technology.