Have you experienced death yet?
I was 37 when the true devastating effect of losing someone hit home. Last year my friend Graham Miller was killed on his motorbike, through no fault of his own (not that it matters - he's gone regardless). He was someone who was important to me, and whom I talked to most days. His death left me reeling with grief and loss.
That's part of the reason that I felt sick when I heard about the tragic event that took Isaak Kornelsen's life on Monday morning. That feeling of mild nausea is accompanied by anger, because it didn't have to be this way.
I'm sure it was politically expedient many years ago to lump cyclists with motor vehicles when Alberta was writing its traffic laws. At the time, cycling was a fringe leisure activity, and there were fewer cars (I'm guessing) per kilometre of road than there are now. Furthermore, cycling would occur mostly in the suburbs, by kids and their parents on Sunday rides.
Fast forward to the modern age, when many Edmontonians want to treat the bicycle as the legitimate transportation choice that it is. When I started cycle commuting 15 years ago, it became clear to me that there is no legal safe place for bikes in many situations. Unless a bike commuter is willing to get off the bike and walk it on the sidewalk (if there is one) many times every trip, there will be times when a cyclist is in danger if he follows the law.
Legally and structurally, there is simply no room for cyclists on many Edmonton streets.
That's why it's so maddening to hear the Edmonton Police dismiss the event as a "freak accident". When a relatively slow-moving, fragile human body is forced to travel between parked vehicles, from which doors could fly out into the lane at any time, and 60,000 pound cement trucks, there is nothing freaky about the inevitable tragedy.
Isaak didn't stand a chance. He was obeying the law, as opposed to the many living, safe(r) outlaws who rode Whyte's sidewalks on Monday.
We need to have a frank discussion in this city about how to make cycling safer.
That discussion needs to give the pain and suffering of victims and their families more weight than it has in the past. Until now, motorist convenience and saving money have won the day.
We need to put everything on the table. Separated bike lanes, bike-oriented traffic controls, speed humps to slow cars down, slower speed limits, allowing bikes on some sidewalks. I even think we should consider banning bikes from the most dangeous routes (after having provided alternative parallel bike routes).
If you've known death, you'll know that paying a few more dollars in taxes or sitting a couple of minutes longer in traffic is a small price to pay to avoid the loss of the precious people around us.
My heart goes out to Isaak's family. Today, theirs is a burden I wouldn't wish on anyone.