London, Ont. cycling advocates honour late cyclist, call for safer streets – London

Cycling advocates rode through the rain on Tuesday to call for safer streets in London, Ont., while mourning the loss of one of their peers, Jibin Benoy.

On the early morning of Sept. 18, Benoy was biking home from a night shift at a downtown restaurant, where the 29-year-old worked between classes at Fanshawe College.

On Hamilton Road near Little Grey Street, Benoy was fatally struck 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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The vehicle, possibly a dark-coloured sedan with significant front end, hood and windshield damage, police said, fled the scene and has yet to be located.

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“When I saw Jibin’s death, it hit super hard. He is 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 reach (his job) … it could’ve been him. It keeps you up at night and I don’t want that anymore.”

At the corner of Hamilton Road and Inkerman Street, a “ghost bike” stands in memory of Jibin Benoy, who was struck and killed there earlier this month.

Andrew Graham / Global News

Tuesday’s ride began at the corner of Hamilton Road and Inkerman Street, where cyclists gathered at a memorial set up in honour of Benoy.

Hunniford spoke to the crowd of everything Benoy would never get to experience, along with why his death further illustrates an urgent need for better cycling infrastructure.

“We should take this accident seriously, we should have an engineer going, ‘what is wrong with Hamilton Road and how do we fix it tomorrow?’” Hunniford told Global News of his demands for the City of London.

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“Tomorrow is possible … I’m asking them to stop choosing inaction.”

Tuesday’s group then travelled to the front steps of city hall, where they held a moment of 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 do need to be making sure we’re providing safety for everyone,” said Colleen Murphy during Tuesday’s demonstration.

Murphy is running to be London’s next Ward 4 councillor in the city’s upcoming election, a decision she made in light of her desire for better cycling infrastructure.

“I want to see connected lanes throughout the city, so people can get to and from businesses,” Murphy added.

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Luis Patricio hasn’t owned a car since 2007 and has long advocated for better cycling infrastructure in London.

He lives just a few blocks away from where Benoy was fatally injured and says roadways like Hamilton Road, which has no bike lanes from Horton Street to Highbury Avenue, are in desperate need of cycling accommodation.

“The chain is as strong as the weakest link, so we can only claim that we have bike infrastructure and we are a bike-friendly city if we have a connected grid, and Hamilton Road is one of the main connectors to this city,” Patricio added.

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Ben Durham and Natalia Danczak said their show of support at Tuesday’s demonstration was less to do with themselves and more to do with those who have no other option but to bike.

“Some people don’t have that choice, they don’t have the choice of getting in the car … because of that, we need safe cycling infrastructure,” Durham said.

“There’s still a lot of gaps within London … there needs to be more mindsets changing and evolving because right now the only way to get around is by car, it’s very car-centric,” Danczak added.

Danczak describes cycling in London as constantly “fighting for space,” especially along roadways that don’t offer protected cycling lanes.

“You have to be more assertive as a cyclist and if you’re not assertive and you’re closer to the curb of the road, you’re going to get pushed, and so that leads to more defensive cycling,” Danczak added.

The city says it has roughly 350 km of cycling paths, bike lanes and cycle tracks throughout London, however it is in the midst of drafting a long-term Mobility Master Plan. This will replace the city’s current Transportation and Cycling master plans, while also outlining 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 future improvement opportunities.

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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 from Global’s Matthew Trevithick

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