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Cyclist's death shows education is needed

By Kristen Oelschlagel


The recent death of a local cyclist shows that education is needed for drivers and cyclists, say cycling advocates.

David Smith, coordinator of the Belleville Cycling Advisory Group, said it’s possible the crash could have been avoided.

“Drivers don’t recognize the rights of cyclists, a cycling network educates drivers and cyclists so everyone could be on board,” said Smith.

William O’Brien, 64, was killed while riding his bicycle northbound on Highway 37 just south of Ritz Road when he was hit by a northbound SUV. The collision happened just after 9 p.m. on May 24. The cause of the crash has not been released.

Tamara Best, a member of the advisory group, said she met O’Brien about a year ago when her family moved to the area. She said O’Brien knew what he was doing when it came to biking; he wasn’t a cyclist that was unpredictable or all over the road.

“William was not a novice cyclist, I saw him on a bike often. It was his lifestyle,” Best said.

Best is also an avid cyclist. She said what happened to O’Brien is something she also worries about.

“I’m always afraid the same thing is going to happen, someone is going to come from behind and I’m not going to see them,” Best said.

“On the day I found out about William (May 25) I had an oncoming car and another car right behind me. I have a double sided trailer for my child so I was very surprised when the car behind me passed me, there wasn’t really room.”

A proposed cycling network for Belleville is still in the planning stages. The city is waiting for recommendations on the transportation master plan from consultants Morrison Hershfield.

Smith said it’s likely that the project isn’t as important to the city as other construction projects.

“The city has construction projects that dominate the attention of traffic engineers. They’re not pro-cycling because there isn’t a critical mass of interest (in cycling),” said Smith.

Because of the process the transportation master plans has to go through, Smith said it is unlikely a cycling network will be in Belleville within the next two years.

Smith and Best both agree that whether there are bike lanes or not, it’s important for cyclists and drivers to understand the concept of sharing the road.