Councillor Melanie McCollum’s mother dies in bicycle-truck accident in Courtenay
On an unusually warm Oct. 2 Sunday, an older woman rode her bicycle to do some errands in downtown Courtenay. Just after noon, she collided with a large truck near the intersection of Fourth Street and Cliffe Avenue. People having lunch or a beer in Gladstone’s outdoor patio might have witnessed what turned out to be a fatal accident.
Jamie McCue was also riding his bike that day and rode past the scene on his way home. He saw emergency vehicles, a large white truck, uniforms and onlookers. He took it all in and rode away.
Later that afternoon, McCue was starting to make dinner plans. His wife, Courtenay Council member Melanie McCollum, was at a field watching one of their daughters’ soccer games.
At 5:15 pm, while standing on the sidelines, Melanie’s telephone rang. On the line was an emergency room doctor from Victoria General Hospital.
That was the moment Melanie learned that her mother, Ruth McCollum, 68, was the cyclist who had collided with the truck in Courtenay. She had been flown to Victoria because of the severity of her injuries. Surgery was required but there was no guarantee she would survive it.
And she would not. Melanie and other McCollum family members traveled to Victoria on Monday where they made the decision to discontinue life support.
McCollum and her family are now grieving.
“We are still in shock, and I’m turning all of my energy toward grieving and supporting my family at this time. While I’m still a candidate for Council, I’m taking a step back from campaigning and wanted people to understand the reason why,” she wrote on her council Facebook page.
McCollum may have suspended her campaign activities for the Oct. 15 election, but her council colleagues have continued to carry her brochures and her message to voters.
It is, of course, heart-wrenching that one of McCollum’s campaign messages has been a fierce defense of the council’s decision to introduce bike lanes on city streets.
The odds are incalculable that a candidate in favor of bike lanes as a means of increasing traffic safety should lose her mother to a bike crash in the midst of an election where some challengers have tried to make bike lanes a controversial issue.
It feels awkward to say right now, but doesn’t this tragically inconceivable accident highlight the value of protected bike lanes and validate the council’s actions?
There is no official police report yet about the accident. But whether the truck driver or the cyclist must shoulder the majority of blame for what happened in this particular accident makes no difference.
The point is that anything a city can do to make our roads safer for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, children and the mobility impaired should be praised, not criticized.
WHAT’S THE VALUE OF YOUR LOVED ONES’ LIVES?
But one or two candidates in this election have made it their goal to unseat the incumbents by shamelessly using protected bike lanes as a punching bag.
They have tried to imply that the City Council has “misspent” local taxes to build these safer bike lanes, calling it a waste of our money.
Setting aside the misinformation in that allegation – the 17th Street project was primarily funded by a federal infrastructure grant – what monetary value would you put on the life of your child, your spouse or your parent?
Why is there such vocal outrage about something that benefits so many? Studies and real-life experience show that cities with separated and protected bike lanes have reduced fatalities for everyone using the roadways.
“The most comprehensive study of bicycle and road safety to date finds that building safe facilities for cyclists is one of the biggest factors in road safety for everyone. Bicycling infrastructure — specifically, separated and protected bike lanes — leads to fewer fatalities and better road-safety outcomes for all road users,” says a University of Colorado, Denver study.
There is always room for civil public discourse about where bike lanes are most needed and where traffic safety poses the greatest risk. But with the invention and popularity of electric bicycles, there will be more and more cyclists on all of our roadways.
According to Statistics Canada, more commuters now walk or bike to work than take public transit.
Local governments have an obligation to make our communities safe for everyone. And it’s okay for people to choose to commute or get around town on bicycles. They shouldn’t be made to feel like second-class citizens.
And, yeah, we’ve all seen bicyclists roll through stop signs. But who hasn’t seen drivers doing the same thing every day?
Let’s have more compassion for people who want to use bicycles to move around out communities. It’s clean and efficient and adds a certain charm to our ambiance.
And let’s drop the rhetoric that improving traffic safety through protected bike lanes only benefits one segment of the population and that it’s somehow a misuse of public funds. That’s a bunch of nonsense from desperate candidates who run negative campaigns for personal gain.
WHERE AND WHEN TO VOTE
General Voting Day is Saturday, Oct. 15 for all local government positions.
Comox Valley Regional District
General Voting Day and advance voting take place at the CVRD building in Courtenay from 8 am to 8 pm.
Go to this link for General Voting Day locations in the three Electoral Areas.
Advance Voting continues on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre.
General Voting Day, Saturday, October 15, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Queneesh Elementary School, and at the Florence Filberg Centre.
Advance voting continues today Monday, October 10 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Genoa Sail Building at Comox Marina, and on Wednesday, October 12 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre.
General Voting Day runs from 8 am to 8 pm on Oct. 15 at the Comox Community Centre.
All voting in the Village of Cumberland takes place from 8 am to 8 pm at the Cumberland Cultural Centre. The next Advance voting takes place on Oct. 12
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It was weird. But when the sun rose on Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.
Mayor Bob Wells and all Courtenay incumbent councillors have been re-elected. Evan Jolicoeur has also been elected. Manno Theos has lost his seat.
Jonathan Kerr, Jenn Meilleur, Steve Blacklock, Chris Haslett, Ken Grant and Maureen Swift have been elected in Comox.
Vickey Brown has been elected mayor in Cumberland, defeating long-time mayor and councillor Leslie Baird.
Voting down -20.6% in Courtenay, -22.3% in Comox and -50.9% in Cumberland.
Full results with Electoral Areas A, B and C, school board and Islands Trust results in the morning.
Daniel Arbour in Area A and Edwin Grieve in Area C won by wide margins. Richard Hardy defeated Arzeena Hamir by 23 votes.
Shannon Aldinger topped the polls in races for SD71 school trustees.
Click the headline on this page for complete results and voter turnout.
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