Early yesterday morning Montreal citizens gathered to memorialize the death of 33 year old speech therapist Mathilde Blais.
Last week she was struck by a transport truck and killed instantly while cycling under the Des Carrières railway bridge.
For a long time now people have expressed concern about these underpasses – but there are no other alternatives for crossing the train tracks that divide the island. Cyclists and vehicles, including the oversized trailer that claimed Ms. Blais, are expected to share these narrow lanes.
There are perfectly safe elevated sidewalks in the tunnel, but last year the city handed out over eleven thousand tickets to cyclists riding on sidewalks. Further complicating matters, many of these underpasses have barriers specifically designed to keep cyclists off these sidewalks. You’d have to dismount and carefully weave between staggered poles, one rider at a time.
It took Mathilde’s death, the first fatality while riding one of Montreal’s much loved Bixi bike-shares, to get these barriers removed, and a tacit agreement in place that police will use judgment, only ticketing cyclists actively endangering pedestrians.
Today, an all-white ghost bike hangs from the railing, standing vigil. A hand lettered sign says simply “Une Cycliste Est Morte Ici – Mathilde Blais 2014-04-28 – A Cyclist Died Here”.
Here is the drawing I made, after the TV crews, the photographers, and the cyclists had left.