“I was pretty much out of commission for three or four months last year,” says Heather Caron, remembering the day her husband died in 2012. “I took off almost six months from work. I didn’t cycle much last year at all… and then I started to think, ‘Do I want to get back on the bike or not?’”Caron, a barrister and solicitor, was cycling in Wellesley with her husband Barrie Conrod when he was fatally struck from behind by an SUV on Herrgott Road. Before the accident, cycling was a major part of their lives. Since then, she has had trepidation.
“I’m going through counselling, and the counsellor told me I needed to do that in order to disconnect the post-traumatic stress, otherwise I’m going to have problems later. I did get back on the bike a couple of times to do that, but it was horrible, it was just horrible. It was just ruminating through my head every time I got on the bike.”
Caron grieved for much of 2012, but as the May 6 anniversary approached, she began to take action. Today (Saturday), her Together We Travel ride will bring cyclists together to busy downtown Waterloo to call attention to street safety.
“It’s really about sharing the road,” said Caron. “We want drivers to pay attention, we want cyclists to pay attention, and we want everybody to be safe on the road.
“I don’t think we’re attentive enough and sensitive enough to how it affects other people,” she continued. “The cyclists need to drive their vehicles safely, they need to pay attention to the rules of the road, they need to be attentive to the fact the drivers may not be able to react as quickly, and the drivers need to know there’s a huge discrepancy in power.”
Conrod, a financial advisor, left a major mark on the community, as dozens of friends, acquaintances, and community members participated in a memorial ride last May. Hoping to build on that spirit, Caron’s three-kilometre ride will be an annual event, with victims of accidents (wearing armbands) sharing the road with other cars and cyclists.
“I don’t know if there’s anything we could have done differently that day,” says Caron. “We did everything right – we were on the right side of the road, we were right by the white line, we were on safe roads, and you could see for miles. There was nothing different that we could have done.”
Still, the past year has given her opportunity to reflect on road cycling safety.
“I think my driving has significantly improved – I’m much more careful,” she said. “Cycling over the years, there have been times when I’ve come to near-misses, and I’ve stopped to think, ‘Well, how did that happen?’ One time my reflector had fallen off, and I was under a bridge and a car didn’t see me, so he skidded.
“I always try to reflect and see if there’s something I can do differently.”
Caron hopes that this sentiment will encourage even those without similar experiences to come out in full force.
“If you ride a bike, you know somebody that rides a bike, you have a neighbour that rides a bike, I would like you to come down and show solidarity for safety in cycling,” she says.
The ride begins in the CIGI parking lot (Caroline and Erb streets, Waterloo) at 5:30 p.m., with registration at 4:15 p.m. There will be a closing ceremony at 6 p.m. The ride is free, but donations will be accepted to cover expenses. Interested participants can find a required insurance waiver and more information at www.togetherwetravel.weebly.com. White shirts and, of course, helmets are mandatory.