Council’s transportation committee on Wednesday settled on a new policy that restricts the time roadside memorials can stay up.
The committee agreed to a six-month window for memorials, such as ghost bikes and crosses, to remain on public property. The timeframe was extended past the staff-recommended three months.
Tina Belanger’s voice shook as she remembered her friend Meg Dussault at transportation committee Wednesday.
A ghost bike now stands where she was killed at Bank and Riverside in 2013, but it may only last until next summer if council approves a policy to take roadside memorials down six months after receiving a complaint.
The six-month window is a compromise from original staff recommendations to act after only 90 days. Right now the city’s bylaws don’t allow memorials at all, but staff leave them alone unless they pose an immediate hazard.
Capital Coun. David Chernushenko said he hoped the new policy would strike a balance between compassion and public access.
“Grieving, at a certain point, needs to move off a public sidewalk,” he said.
But some feel targeting memorials – ghost bikes in particular – misses the point.
“They teach the general public awareness, whether it be a conscious effort to keep your eyes on the road, not to drink and drive or to be mindful of traffic,” Belanger said.
She added that such installations can also flag safety issues.
But Chernushenko said the city investigates fatal collisions – and takes necessary actions – regardless of whether a memorial has been erected or not.
“It isn’t always the case that an accident was a result of bad infrastructure,” he said.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said the idea that memorials encroach too much on city space is also moot until council addresses its own accessibility issues.
“Those sandwich boards that are always up on Elgin never get taken down,” McKenney said. “We’ve got main streets across the city that impair mobility. We do need some sort of bylaw, we do need something to guide us, but I think we need to be honest about why that is the case.”