Memorial bike ride to be held for U of O student

Jesse Mellot | Fulcrum Staff

Photograph by Justin Labelle

ON THE MORNING of Oct. 11, 2011, Danielle Naçu was on her bike heading westbound on Queen Street, a few blocks away from the University of Ottawa, where she was a student, when the driver of a parked Volkswagen opened her door and knocked Naçu off her bike into an oncoming car. When emergency crews arrived at the scene, Naçu had no vital signs and later died at the hospital from the injuries she sustained. She was 34.

In memory of Naçu’s passing, friends and family are holding a bike ride on the first anniversary of her death. According to Seamus Wolfe, former president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), it will be a celebration of a life taken too soon.

“It’s an important memorial of a vibrant woman who was killed on her bike a year ago [and] who was a student at the University of Ottawa,” said Wolfe, who now helps run the SFUO’s Bike Co-op. “I think it’s really important that the community comes together, both student and non-student, to celebrate this woman’s life. Secondly, it’s to put emphasis on having safe streets for cyclists, especially in the downtown core.”

This is not the first event organized by Naçu’s loved ones. Shortly after the tragedy that ended her life, a memorial bike ride was held to bring together the Ottawa cycling community. Samantha McGavin, media representative and organizer of both rides, said she felt the need to have a ride where people could come together.

“It became a larger event once Brent Naçu, her brother, got in touch with me and said that he was mobilizing her colleagues, family, and friends,” said McGavin. “So it became a larger celebration of her life. Those are the twin motivators for the annual ride. One is to celebrate that generous person who was very committed to her community. The other is to continue to raise awareness about cyclist safety.”

Although the memorial ride was started by Naçu’s family and friends, there are also students on the U of O campus  who are involved in helping to coordinate the event.

“We [the Bike Co-op] have come on board to help with some of our experience in terms of biking in the city,” said Wolfe. “[Naçu’s] friends and family are not necessarily directly linked to the campus that Danielle was an integral part of.”

The ride this year will be held on Oct. 11 at 11:30 a.m. It will start at the corner of Sparks Street and O’Connor Street, continue to Queen Street to pause at the “ghost bike,” and conclude at City Hall with words from Naçu’s family and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

In addition to the annual memorial bike ride, the U of O has started a scholarship in the faculty of social sciences in Naçu’s honour.