A hero is dead but a city won’t care

Some of the flowers are gone. They were placed at the Northwest corner of City Park and Ogilvie. I don’t know what happened to them; the city doesn’t always like memorials. But in the median, there’s a bouquet taped to the light standard, which is just about where Lise Leblanc was killed on April 14, struck by an SUV as she tried to cross the road.

She wasn’t just a victim, though, she was also a hero, saving a life on that very same road:

He recalled how in late February last year Leblanc was the driver who troubled to stop at 4:45 a.m. and saved a child who’d simply wandered away from his nearby Aviation Parkway home unbeknownst to his mother.

“Other cars drove past, but Lise stopped immediately, wrapped him in her emergency blanket and brought him into the shelter of her car,” Paige said. “She dialed 911 and did her best to warm him up and comfort him until officers arrived. Lise continued to stay by his side for as long as possible.

“Police and paramedics praised her actions, telling her that without her intervention, the boy would not have survived.”

We don’t know yet what happened. Either the driver or Leblanc may have been “at fault”. Leblanc may not have had the right-of-way. She may have been running to be the late or dodging traffic. Of course, none of that allows you to kill a pedestrian, but our community is built with a massive deference to cars and drivers in all situations.

But hers’ something we do know. We know who killed her.

We did. We killed her.

Ogilvie Road is a god-damned freeway. It’s wide and it’s fast. It’s built to link suburbia with the rest of the city. It’s built to get people through Gloucester as fast conceivably possible. The laws, the lights and the intersections are built for cars, and minivans, and SUVs. The road grudgingly accepts that pedestrians will be there, but does nothing to accommodate them or make them safe. This city is built for cars.

We know this kind of development is deadly. We know that we’re killing our citizens. But we don’t care, or we pretend not to know…but that’s just another form of not caring.

In a few months, the police may tell us what happened (or what they think happened, or that, gosh darn it, they’re stumped), but it’s highly unlikely anything will happen. Sometimes, pedestrian deaths are worth a ticket. Often, they’re merely forgotten about.

Because, as a city, we don’t care. We do very little to make our roads, streets and neighbourhoods safe. We keep building bigger and faster roads. Communities have to make repeated genuflections for any safety concessions. Real change never happens.

Other cities are fed up with these deaths. They make transformative changes to their infrastructure. They enforce their laws. They adopt a Vision Zero policy. But not Ottawa. We’re wedded to our cars, and we’ll do just about anything to accommodate more of them.

We killed Lise Leblanc.

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