Laws must be ‘drastically changed’ to prevent more road deaths: creator of GTA ghost bike

West Toronto resident Geoff Bercarich longs to see the day when he no longer needs to prepare “ghost bike” facilities for cyclists killed on the streets of southwestern Ontario.

Over the past 20 years, the veteran cyclist and safe cycling advocate has dedicated countless hours of his time to creating more than 100 memorials, which are assembled from parts removed from donated or disused bicycles that are then painted white and usually They decorate with silk. flowers.

Ghost bikes are usually chained to a pole or sign near where a cyclist lost their life about a week after a tragedy. When possible, the victim’s family gets involved and supports this moving tribute, which is usually accompanied by a memorial bike ride and a small ceremony.

They also serve as a way for the community to come together and remember that no cyclist travels alone, Bercarich said, adding that they are also a continuous reminder of the need for everyone to advocate for safer streets for vulnerable road users.

“It is extremely sad. I don’t want to do this, but it’s the only thing I can do,” she said during an interview outside her West End home and workshop.

“At the end of the day, it’s someone’s life and you have to value it.”

Bercarich, who founded the Bike Pirates DYI bicycle repair shop, said he has prepared between three and six ghost bikes each year for the past two decades in honor of cyclists who have died or died throughout the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

In 2021, he also created a special ghost wheelchair for a woman killed by a dump truck driver on Toronto’s downtown east side.

Many of the victims and their loved ones he has met or paid tribute to over the years have deeply impacted his life, he shared during a Monday morning interview with

Ali Sezgin Armagan, child

Last weekend, Bercarich prepared another ghost bike for Toronto’s latest victim of road violence, a 39-year-old man who was remembered Tuesday night with a grand bike ride and ceremony near the site in Yorkville where He was run over and killed a week ago. back.

The organization Advocacy for Respect for Cyclist (ARC), for which he is a volunteer, organized the meeting.

Identified by his family to ARC as Ali Sezgin Armagan, the victim arrived in Canada last August, Bercarich said. Sezgin, as he was known, worked as an Uber electric bike driver to help support his father in Turkiye. He is the fourth cyclist to die after being hit by a driver in Toronto in 2024.

The proud uncle of a little niece was at work last Monday when he was fatally struck by the operator of a commercial flatbed truck. The accident occurred shortly after 1 pm near a construction site at Avenue Road and Elgin Avenue, just south of Davenport Road.

On Tuesday, the unnamed driver of the motor vehicle, a 52-year-old man, was charged under the Highway Traffic Act with negligent driving causing bodily injury or death. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 27.

Stricter laws needed for vulnerable road users: advocate

Bercarich, who also has a small home-based bicycle repair business that helps support his ghost bike efforts, said he hopes to prepare many more memorials unless the laws “change dramatically.”

“Honestly, it’s just a matter of lowering the speed limits and getting the police to enforce them,” he said, adding that Toronto and surrounding municipalities can learn a lot from other bike-friendly places like Finland and Sweden and even Montreal and New York City. , who have implemented thoughtful urban design and strengthened laws that have resulted in safer streets for all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians.

“We don’t need more bike lanes or bike highways. “We just need laws that respect all road users and speed limits that are enforced.”

Bercarich said he has encountered a lot of criticism over the years from both GTHA municipalities and even some members of the local cycling community for his ghost bike and cycling advocacy efforts, but he said what keeps him going Ahead are the dedicated legal professionals and advocates who work. tirelessly to push for new and improved laws for vulnerable road users.

Bercarich spends an average of seven hours a day on the road as a bike courier for a major delivery company and says he sees all kinds of dangerous driving behavior firsthand.

And unfortunately, due to his long involvement in the cycling community, he is often one of the first people contacted when a cyclist is involved in a serious collision.

Bercarich said at this point, it’s not a question of if, but when, another vulnerable road user will be seriously injured or even killed on the streets.

“It is a matter of time and the probability is always on the side of death. “I won’t be happy until that probability changes,” she said.

Geoff Bercarich

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