More than 150 central Alberta cyclists participated in a memorial ride Sunday for the late Heather Lawrence, who was struck and killed in a hit-and-run collision earlier this summer.
The cyclists, who started their 25-km ride from CrossRoads Church, were also gathering to urge motorists to share the road.
“The ride was about more than grief for Heather. Cyclists have the right to ride on the road,” said John Johnston, president of the Red Deer Association of Bike Commuters.
“They may be an annoyance to some motorists, but we do have a right to be there. And motorists are much more than an annoyance to cyclists — they are a lethal threat.”
Johnston added he has cycled all over the world and believes Alberta is one of the least safe places to ride.
While the vast majority of Alberta motorists are extremely courteous and watchful around cyclists, he believes “there is a certain percentage that make it really quite scary to ride a bicycle.
“They think we don’t have any rights at all — but that’s not true. We do have the right to ride on the roads.”
Lawrence was killed on July 6 as she was cycling south of McKenzie Road on Range Road 265. The death of the 45-year-old Red Deerian who worked with children in her physiotherapy practice and was also an avid community actor and rock climber, is still under RCMP investigation. No arrest has yet been made.
But a more recent photo of the suspect’s vehicle shows it was a 1999 to 2003 model of a Mazda Protege with a dark green paint job, chrome five-spoke tire rims, and after-market fog lights and exhaust. The vehicle also had a roof-mounted antenna.
Cyclists from the Central Alberta Bicycle Club and the Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting set out on Sunday wearing jerseys with the logo “Heather’s Passion.”
The focus was on biking safety with members of the RCMP, peace officers and other volunteers there to ensure safe passage to the Penhold turn-off and back. Cycling club members were joined by many other bikers from the community, including Red Deer city councillors Bruce Buruma and Lawrence Lee.
In a pre-ride speech that was attended by Lawrence’s parents, her close friend, Manon Therriault described Heather as a “super auntie…a passionate Red Deerian and life-changing physiotherapist.” By fleeing the scene, instead of staying to offer assistance, the suspect motorist “has devastated her family and our community. We hope they will have the decency to come forward and own up to their actions,” added Therriault.
Meanwhile, Heather’s friends have installed a “ghost bike” (a bike painted white) at the site of the collision as a poignant reminder to motorists to share the road with cyclists.