Cycling advocates rode through the rain on Tuesday to demand safer streets in London, Ont., while mourning the loss of one of their peers, Jibin Benoy.
In the early morning of September 18, Benoy was cycling home from a night shift at a downtown restaurant, where the 29-year-old was working between classes at Fanshawe College.
On Hamilton Road near Little Gray Street, Benoy was fatally hit by a vehicle, shattering his dream of starting a new life in London with his wife, who was still back in their home country of India. He was later pronounced dead in hospital.
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Police say the vehicle, possibly a dark-colored sedan with extensive front, hood and windshield damage, fled the scene and has yet to be located.
“When I saw Jibin’s death it hit me really hard. He’s my son, my son is him,” said Andrew Hunniford, the organizer of Tuesday’s Safe Streets Advocacy Ride.
“I have a 20-year-old son who works in the service industry late at night and uses a bike to get to (work)…it could have been him. It keeps you up at night and I don’t want that anymore.
Tuesday’s ride began at the corner of Hamilton Road and Inkerman Street, where cyclists gathered in front of a memorial erected in Benoy’s honor.
Hunniford spoke to the crowd about everything Benoy would never know, as well as why his death further illustrates the urgent need for better cycling infrastructure.
“We should take this accident seriously, we should ask an engineer ‘what’s wrong with Hamilton Road and how are we going to fix it tomorrow?'” Hunniford told PKBNEWS about his applications for the City of London.
“Tomorrow is possible… I ask them to stop choosing inaction.”
Tuesday’s group then proceeded to the steps of City Hall, where they held a minute’s silence for Benoy before ringing their bells to make their call for better cycling infrastructure heard.
“Not everyone can afford a car and we really need to make sure we keep everyone safe,” Colleen Murphy said at Tuesday’s protest.
Murphy is running to be London’s next Ward 4 councilor in the city’s next election, a decision she made in light of her desire to improve cycling infrastructure.
“I want to see connected pathways throughout the city, so people can get to and from businesses,” Murphy added.
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Luis Patricio has not owned a car since 2007 and has long advocated for better cycling infrastructure in London.
He lives a few blocks from where Benoy was fatally injured and says roads like Hamilton Road, which has no cycle lanes from Horton Street to Highbury Avenue, are in desperate need of accommodation for cyclists .
“The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so we can only claim that we have cycling infrastructure and that we are a bike-friendly city if we have a connected network, and Hamilton Road is one of the main connectors of this city”, Patricio added.
Ben Durham and Natalia Danczak said their show of support at Tuesday’s protest was less about themselves than those who had no choice but to cycle.
“Some people don’t have that choice, they don’t have the choice to get in the car…because of that we need safe cycling infrastructure,” Durham said.
“There are still a lot of gaps in London… mindsets need to change and evolve because currently the only way to get around is by car, it’s very car-centric,” Danczak added.
Danczak describes cycling in London as a “constant struggle for space”, especially along roads that don’t offer protected cycle lanes.
“You need to be more assertive as a rider and if you’re not and you’re closer to the side of the road you’re going to get pushed which leads to more defensive cycling,” Danczak added.
The city says it has around 350km of cycleways, cycleways and cycleways across London, but is in the process of drafting a long-term mobility master plan. This will replace the city’s current transportation and cycling master plans, while setting priorities for the next 10 to 25 years.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., the city will host a virtual webinar for the public to discuss the upcoming Mobility Master Plan, local transportation trends, feedback on the plan so far, and opportunities for future improvements.
A link to the upcoming webinar, as well as more details on the Mobility Master Plan, can be found on the City of London’s Get Involved website.
— with files by Matthew Trevithick of Global
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