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Following the death of an Ottawa-area cyclist, NDP member of parliament to propose national cycling strategy

Gord Johns hopes rider's legacy will be one of progress, making Canadian cities safer for cyclists nationwide and fostering greater cooperation between all road users

Image: Miguel Andrade
Image: Miguel Andrade

The Sept. 1 death of a 23-year-old Ottawa-area rider has triggered a surge of heated words among both cyclists and motorists, the Ottawa Citizen reports. It’s a common refrain, with drivers complaining about what they see as preferential treatment for riders, cyclists accusing drivers of failing to share the road, and both sides accusing one another of playing fast and loose with the law.

But for one Member of Parliament, it’s hoped that Nusrat Jahan’s legacy will be one of progress, making Canadian cities safer for riders nationwide—and fostering greater cooperation between all road users.

Jahan’s passing, said Gord Johns, the NDP’s member of parliament for the B.C. riding of Courtenay-Alberni, is the inspiration behind a private member’s bill he’ll be introducing in the coming days, aimed at establishing a national cycling strategy. “It just hit close to home,” the avid cyclist and former Tofino, B.C. bike shop owner told the Citizen. “We need to do more to make Canada a better and safer place for cyclists.”

The idea, he said, is to establish a greater legal framework for co-operation between riders and drivers while improving bike infrastructure across Canada. Though much of the responsibility for such infrastructure falls to the provinces, federal laws governing the use of side guards on large trucks, for example—something that might have made a difference in Jahan’s death—is an area that his proposed legislation can directly influence.

Ultimately, though, it’s hoped that the lasting effect of Johns’s legislation—if successful—will be the defusing of a long-simmering conflict between drivers and riders.

“This will provide the framework for that conversation,” Johns told Citizen reporters, “and it’s important that we do it sooner rather than later. It will save lives.”