Earlier this fall, the city of Ottawa imposed a six-month limit for roadside “ghost bike” memorials. Originally, the idea was to require that such memorials be removed after three months. After public feedback, however — some of it heated — city staff in the nation’s capital changed course, agreeing to double the time that such makeshift shrines could offically serve their purpose.
For some, no doubt, even six months is too short a time to honour the city’s cycling fallen. It’s in recognition of that concern that plans are in the works to erect a more official, permanent memorial, honouring those citizens of Ottawa — and of Canada — who have lost their lives in pursuit of their passion.
The idea came about as a result of discussions between city councillor David Chernushenko and Brent Nacu, whose sister was killed in a “dooring “incident while commuting to work in 2011. As she was en route, a motorist errantly opened the door of their parked vehicle into the path of Danielle Nacu, as the rider was cycling along Queen Street. Striking the door, the 34-year-old cyclist was hurled into traffic, and directly into the path of another automobile. She was taken to the hospital after being hit, but the extent of her injuries was too much. Nacu died from her injuries shortly thereafter.
A plan to memorialize Nacu and other Canadian riders who have met similar fates is in its preliminary stages, with her brother developing a business plan to fund the project. Chernushenko, meanwhile, is the plan’s principle advocate in the chambers of Ottawa’s municipal government — and his involvement is particularly meaningful.
“Many,” he said, “if not all of the people who are killed in an accident on a bicycle, they’re riding a bike because they love to ride a bike. That their time ended tragically should not take away from the fact that cycling is still a great way to [travel].” That Chernushenko was the councillor who first tabled the motion setting limits on the length of time “ghost bike” memorials could remain untouched, no doubt, lends the plan added gravity.
“I raised this just so that people were aware I was working on this,” the councillor told the CBC, “so that those who might feel that it’s heartless of me to say, ‘Time’s up, go home,’ that there is actually something [else] to go to.”
At this early stage, the plan is for the monument to occupy an unused patch of green space between Bronson Avenue and Bronson Place, just off Colonel By Drive in Chernushenko’s ward. So far, city staff has indicated that the city is a viable one, situated on surplus land. Nonetheless, a formal process will need to be undertaken to ensure that there are no impediments or complications as the plan moves forward.
If all goes well, though, the privately-funded memorial could be ready to go in about six months.