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Inquest into cyclist's death is needed

The Orilla Packet and Times: Inquest into cyclist’s death is needed

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Posted By JULIE LANGPETER JLANGPETER@ORILLIAPACKET.COM

The death of Casey Witteman was a horrible tragedy. Witteman, 59, was riding his mountain bike along Highway 11 on July 11 near Washago when he was hit on the head from behind by a roof truss on a passing truck.

He was pronounced dead the next day at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The Crown Attorney has decided not to charge the driver in the case.

An inquest needs to be called into Witteman’s death.

There are many questions that need to be answered regarding this misfortunate incident. This sort of tragedy can’t be allowed to happen again.

It is legal for cyclists to travel on Highway 11. Highway 11 is an extremely busy roadway -- especially on summer weekends.

The gravel shoulder is difficult to manoeuvre on. At the spot where Witteman was killed, the shoulder narrows as the highway crosses the Severn River. Witteman -- who had expressed his fear of travelling on Highway 11 to a friend -- was more than likely forced into close proximity with the flow of traffic.

But cyclists who want to travel north and south along the west side of Lake Couchiching have little choice but to use the highway. Any other options have them riding kilometres and kilometres out of the way through rural countryside. As a green mode of transportation, cycling should be easier, not harder, than driving a car.

Severn Township is looking at its west shore settlement area transportation master plan, and that might be a good time to consider giving cyclists an alternate way north from Orillia. Although it wouldn’t have helped Witteman on the fatal route he travelled over the Severn River in July, it could help someone in the future to stay off the busy thoroughfare.

Long-term plans for Highway 11 involve it becoming a controlled-access six-lane highway. At that point, cyclists won’t be able to use the highway at all and another solution has to be found.

An inquest could extract some good from the preventable tragedy of Casey Witteman’s death.