Yesterday, while driving along the Trans-Canada Highway north of Thunder Bay, we met a group of cyclists. We meet and pass cyclists on the T-C all summer long. It is a dangerous stretch of highway. Some sections have about 4 inches of paved shoulder before a drop off into gravel. The highway is under construction. Hwy 11 and Hwy 17 meet in Nipigon and traffic from both highways funnels into this 110 km stretch before separating again west of Thunder Bay. There is a lot of traffic on this two-lane road – tourists, transports, commuters, families, walkers, and cyclists.
Accidents and road closures are not unusual.
Surprisingly, those accidents rarely involve cyclists.
But yesterday was different. Two of the cyclists we had just seen went on down the highway for several hours, only to be struck and killed by a pickup truck. The driver was not from Canada.
Why is it so hard to make our roads safer for cyclists?
I listen to endless arguments against the plans of Active Transportation Thunder Bay. Why do we not value the opportunity to create safe thoroughfares for those wanting to travel under their own power?
The highway from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada. It is also unique in that for most of the route, communities are about 100 km apart – a perfect cycling trip. Cyclists have been enjoying this stretch of highway for years, and there is so much potential to market this as a week long, 700 km bike trip.
But it remains a very dangerous route. Adding paved shoulders to the highway for the entire 700 km would make it a safer, much more enjoyable trip for everyone.
We need to care about encouraging activity, especially active transportation that does not use fossil fuels. Let’s make sure these deaths were not in vain and that we work to ensure safe cycling everywhere.
Update: More on the story from CBC here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/story/2013/07/24/tby-thunder-bay-cyclists-killed-highway-accident.html