Mourning husband calls for safer roads for cyclists

Teresa Wright
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Edmund Aunger's wife, Elizabeth Ann Sovis, died after being struck by a vehicle while cycling in P.E.I. last month

Edmund Aunger and Elizabeth Ann Sovis are shown here in Port Elgin, N.B., wearing the reflective vests they always wore while cycling. Sovis was struck by a van and killed in P.E.I. on July 14, 2012, the day after this photo was taken.

The husband of an Alberta woman killed while cycling in Prince Edward Island last month is calling on the P.E.I. government to make its roads safer for cyclists.

In a victim impact statement he posted online, Edmund Aunger says the province played a major role in his wife’s death by promoting the Island as an ideal getaway for bicyclists despite the fact many of P.E.I.’s highways do not have paved shoulders.

“Prince Edward Island has actively promoted itself to cyclists as a welcoming holiday destination, but it has failed to provide them with travelling conditions that are as safe as those available to motorists,” Aunger wrote.

“Therefore, the province must bear a major part of the responsibility for this fatality.”

He and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Sovis, were on a cycling trip to P.E.I. on July 14, traversing the Confederation Trail from Borden-Carleton when they were forced to leave the trail and ride on the side of a highway to get to their bed and breakfast in Hunter River.

Aunger says he and Elizabeth always went out of their way to avoid riding along highways because she believed sharing the road with motor vehicles was too dangerous.

But with no other option to reach their destination, Aunger took the lead and they began cycling along Route 13, a two-lane highway with no paved shoulders.

“We had travelled only 2.6 km along Route 13 when I heard a loud bang behind me – the sound a forklift might make if it dropped a large load of lumber,” Aunger recalled.

He paid little mind to it until he noticed on-coming cars stopping, their passengers running down the road.

He turned around and peddled back, only to be met with a horrifying scene: his wife lying on the side of the road, a deep gash on her forehead, eyes glazed, blood running from her mouth.

“As Elizabeth lay dying, I kneeled nearby, prostrate, sobbing, crying out her name over and over, ‘Please Elizabeth. Please Elizabeth. Please Elizabeth.’ And I pleaded with God, ‘Please Lord God. Please help her,’” Aunger wrote in his impact statement.

Later he had to endure the devastating task of calling each of his three children to tell them their mother was dead.

“They couldn’t believe me. It broke their hearts. And my heart shattered over and over again,” he said.

“If it had been a nightmare, I would have awoken screaming. But I was already awake. And this was no terrorizing dream. It was a terrible, terrible reality.”

Afterward, he was overcome with guilt. He normally always rode behind Elizabeth when they bicycled together in order to let her set the pace and determine their stops.

But on July 14, Aunger had taken the lead to guide his wife to their B & B.

“When I married Elizabeth, I vowed to love, honour and protect her. In leading her onto a highway with no paved shoulder, I put her life at risk.”

But Aunger also believes the P.E.I. government bears some responsibility for his wife’s untimely demise.

He said Tourism P.E.I.’s brochure, Cycling Guide 2012, "heavily influenced" the couple’s decision to travel to P.E.I. for a bike tour. It describes how cyclists can serenely traverse the Island via the Confederation Trail.

“Nowhere in the guide does the province warn that cyclists cannot safely access or exit the Confederation Trail,” Aunger said.

“Nowhere does the province warn that Route 13, like other suggested highways, has no paved shoulders and presents a serious danger for cyclists.”

That’s why he is now calling on the P.E.I. government to make P.E.I.’s roadways safer for cyclists and anyone walking or wheeling on the side of the road.

He sent copies of his victim impact statement to Tourism Minister Robert Henderson, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey and Justice Minister Janice Sherry. In it, he says the province should build a transportation network that is as safe for bicycle riders as it is for automobile drivers.

“As a minimal requirement the province must pave shoulders on its highways and design lanes for cycling. It must also build more dedicated cycling paths,” he said.

He also told The Guardian he hopes the public will take note of his tragic situation so they can understand the scope of his grief and the reason he feels so strongly action must be taken to make Island roads safer.

“My hope is that the P.E.I. government will act to prevent other senseless deaths.”

RCMP arrested a man and later charged him with impaired driving causing death as a result of the fatality. Clarence Arnold Moase, 49, of Kensington was remanded into custody. He appeared in provincial court Monday, but the case was adjourned to Aug. 27 and he remains in custody by consent.

He has not yet entered a plea.

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Borden-Carleton Kensington

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • get them off the road
    August 09, 2012 - 12:24

    Sorry but having a pack of cyclists on the road is EXTREMELY annoying. Get them off the road period.

  • Just sayin.
    August 08, 2012 - 01:37

    The problem seems to me to be that the province advertises that there are several ' cycling routes' all across the province. We, as islanders know that these roads are NOT safe for bicycles , there is just no room for them to travel safely. I feel the province should NOT be promoting these roads as safe for cyclers This tragity would not have happened if these people were not lead to believe there was safe access to the Trails., and on any road they may have to travel. I just don't think they would have considered this journey had it not been for the advertising. I think this is the point Mr.Aunger is trying to make.

  • to piet hein
    August 08, 2012 - 00:03

    its true, believe it or leave it. i could personally care less. And no I was not lying nor was another witness but since we are not in a court of law why am I even bothering with your comment. You probably do the same? Have a nice day now.

  • Threadmill puppets
    August 07, 2012 - 21:22

    Counted 19 impatient drivers passing on the shoulder the other day. What if there had been a biker or pedestrian there? What's your big hurry?

    • Piet Hein
      August 07, 2012 - 23:30

      Threadmill, admit it. You are not quite truthful. I have driven this Island many, many times and have seen some terrible driving mistakes, but never have I seen someone passing on the shoulder once let alone 19 times in one day. You sure it was not 20 drivers passing on the shoulders?

  • Pascale
    August 07, 2012 - 21:17

    I am a tourist from Savoie FRANCE, I come here every year to visit my firends and I have been road biking for 7 years on Pei around Charlottetown. I must admit the roads are very dangerous. For ex, If you go over the bridge it is very dangerous, and cycling through the city is a rodeo ! My question is why nothing is being done on the island (I haven't seen anything changed !) ......and in Charlottetwn.. I do appreciate your article, that is very objective, clear and we can really understand the pain of this cyclist ! GOD .....THis is so UNFAIR ! PEI GVT must do something to protect its visitors ! Such a tragedy must'nt be repeated

  • islander
    August 07, 2012 - 18:19

    A couple of weeks ago, I was on the road between Park Corner and French River. I passed over a hill and had to swerve to avioid a biker on the road. Had one of my kids screamed, phone rang or a hundred other distractions, I would have hit him! Fyi I was not drinking or speeding either. Thats 20 years of driving without a single ticket I agree the secondary roads on PEI are not safe to bike on!

  • Shoulder to Cry On
    August 07, 2012 - 13:41

    I just drove down University Ave where we have a shoulder marked for bikes.This shoulder is in no way any safer than most country roads when the driver is impaired!!! These shoulders are narrow and if a vehicle swerved, it would surely hit the biker. Let's remember, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE (alcohol, drugs, prescription medications). IMPAIRED DRIVING CAN KILL. It is not road improvement we need, it is zero tolerance policies for these inconsiderate idiots who choose to maim and kill knowing their punishment will be a slap on the wrist. That is why we have repeat offenders. My condolences to Mr Aunger but as a tax payer I do not want to have to pay for paved road shoulders when that is not the reason your wife was tragically killed. We advertise our trails which have been groomed for walkers, joggers, and bikers. This incident was not a government issue. Please do not down play the senseless "murders" of impaired drivers by blaming the road for not having shoulders.

    • Mrs.G. Brown-e
      August 07, 2012 - 14:33

      Sincerest, sympathy extended to Edmund Aunger on the death of his "Loved One- His beloved Wife, Elizabeth Ann Sovis." - - - Prince Edward Island Highways, Roads & Streets are Not safe for Anyone regardlsess of their mode of travel, walking, driving vehicle, By Bicycle or motorcycle . - - - I Strongly suggest Everyone planning a Vacation on P.E.I or Any other Province research Statistics, Newspapers-T.V media Internet Sites and the Province's Locals blog-sites and contact MADD for informations. The ONLY thing Gentle about PEI is it's rural scenery & ocean breeze. - - - Bless You & your family & friends during this most difficult time and I encourage You'all to continue to pursue 'false advertising..'

  • Michael Nesbitt
    August 07, 2012 - 12:06

    To begin, I feel no shame in negatively commenting on this man's opinion, which is posted online for all to read and discuss. A "victim impact statement" is something that is read in court to help sway the decision of consequence for a crime conviction. I cycle almost every day, either on the Confederation Trail, on roads with paved shoulders and on roads with no paved shoulder. Agreed, there are roads that are are less safe for cycling than others. Even the Confederation Trail is not absolutely safe due to the fact that it is a "trail" surface and that ATV and motorcycle dirvers regularly disobey the law and use the Trail as their route (sometimes after having been drinking, as personally-collected evidence has indicated, and under similar circumstances at night, it has been related to me, to avoid being caught on the roadways ) The point of the letter is to place blame for the death on the province, and to suggest the province is responsible. I don't feel the province is any more responsible than they are for the multiple, vehicle-crash deaths that occur on our highways every year, which are more numerous than cyclist deaths. For vehicles or cyclists, it is a matter of Defensive Driving: the greater the risk one feels, the more care and attention one needs to exercise, both for one's own driving and for awareness of the surroundings and other drivers. It is not a perfect system, but we demand roads from our governments so that we can drive our vehicles... everywhere. We drive too much, in my opinion, but I have a difficult time convincing most people of that because they are too tied to the convenience of their vehicle. Adding intoxicants into the mix is a disaster waiting to happen, when any vehicle is involved, and sometimes even when vehicles are not involved. Yes, improvements to roads are sometimes needed, but there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis that clearly favours the benefit side of the equation. Nonetheless, personal responsibility for safety is the first consideration. Mr. Aunger's anger and blame should be placed squarely on the apparently impaired driver of the vehicle that hit his wife. My sympathy for the the angst that is also generated by his considerations of the role played by their own decisions.

  • phyllis
    August 07, 2012 - 11:12

    If they want to make cycling more safe for the riders, they could move them to the other side of the roadway so they will be facing traffic. I always travelled on the left hand side as if walking when I rode my bike and it was much safer. I could see what was coming and could hear what was behind me. The problem today is that all the bikers have their ears plugged into some kind of music system and can't hear anything and they are so busy looking at the scenery that they are not even aware of approaching traffic. Just move to the other side of the road and you will be safer and feel safer. Very simple. Change the rules of the road. Maybe some lives could be saved by this simple fix to the problem. Doesn't take a lot of brain power to see whats wrong with the way cyclists are travelling.

  • lilley
    August 07, 2012 - 10:20

    Now that alcohol can be served at 9:00 a.m. by the food service business, that will no doubt put more drunks on the road, with almost a license to injure, or kill.

    • To Lilley
      August 07, 2012 - 16:46

      Alcohol can be purchased at 9am at the Liquor Store too Lilley. Your point really is invalid. What's the difference if a fella has a beer with his breakfast in a restaurant, or buys a case at the liquor store in the morning and starts pounding them into him? I don't get us Islanders sometimes. People arguing about the private liquor outlets and the serving of breakfast beers. It doesn't matter where and when people buy their booze, it's how responsible they are once they buy it and drink it. A person who drinks and drives will do so whether they buy their booze at the LCC or a private location.

  • Sympathy
    August 07, 2012 - 09:31

    Having been in his shoes, and, seeing the results first hand for myselfI, I can only say I am sorry anyone has to endure what she did and he is.

  • Islan der
    August 07, 2012 - 08:57

    I know he stated the province advertised safe cycling but he kinda makes the argument look invalid when he cites from the tourist guide where the province actually advertises the rails to trails ???

  • Young islander
    August 07, 2012 - 07:39

    My sincerest condolences to you and your family, Mr. Aunger. My heart breaks for you and your family to have lost their wife and mother in such a tragic and pointless way. Please know that there are many Islanders who stand behind you and your cause.

  • False advertising
    August 07, 2012 - 07:03

    Everyone knows that the roads are not friendly to cyclists. why would the gov't advertise that it is? First and foremost, they need to stop falsely advertising. A life has been lost and a family destroyed, a lawsuit needs to be launched at the very least.

  • very sad
    August 07, 2012 - 06:29

    I am so sorry for your loss Mr. Aunger.... there are no words to change this tragic situation. I do hope that everyone in this province learns a lesson, slow down, stop texting and for G-d's sake DO NOT DRINK and Drive. My heart breaks for your family and my anger at this situation which is truly senseless. WAKE up PEI. Stop drinking and driving.

  • Jarrod
    August 07, 2012 - 06:28

    I'd just like to point out that a couple weekends ago, I was driving back to Summerside from Stanley Bridge (Route 6) when I happened upon some sort of cycling race - the next 20 minutes turned out to be an extremely stressful affair. Try to picture it - these are winding, rolling roads without shoulders on a busy tourist route. You have multiple packs of bikers engaged in competition (not necessarily paying close attention to motorists) occupying half your lane. To pass, you need to ensure there isn't an oncoming motorist and that one of the cyclists doesn't veer off their path. You've got about 20 cars behind you, bumper to bumper and you need to make sure you maintain your non-highway speed of about 25 km/h so you don't rear-end a cyclist. Once you actually find the time and space to pass one gaggle of cyclists, you'd find yourself in the exact same precarious situation, this time behind that single, over-enthusiastic cyclist who separated from the pack. Long story short, I agree PEI is far from a cyclist's paradise. And to the race organizers, you might want to consider a different route next time, because I assure you this one is a disaster in the making.

    • Michael
      August 07, 2012 - 11:33

      All suggestions already under consideration, Jarrod. Not the best situation, under the circumstances of summer P.E.I., but the best planning and control possible through the race... which took a maximum of four hours and was only a "problem" for vehicles right behind the two "packs" or encountering the few individuals that don't keep up (which really are few as they were experienced cyclists). From the other side, noting that cyclists from five provinces attended, plus retinues that included family, etc., the only way to make such an event entirely safe - along a route that was truly a cycling challenge - is to close the course to vehicles for the duration of the race. I'm for that, but expect as many complaints about that as there may be from impatient drivers caught in the situation you were. We often laud the "slower pace of life on P.E.I.", but in most cases it is just a myth.

  • Bruce Ellis
    August 07, 2012 - 04:22

    I am sorry for the loss of your loved one we the people of Hunter River have being asking for a side walk along 13 on the north side of #2 for years hoping the miss fortune of the loss of your wife will help our children and grandchildren to get a side walk instead of walking on the road there is no shoulder facing the traffic

  • Charles Foster
    Charles Foster
    August 07, 2012 - 00:43

    @The Crow, the Victim Impact Statement could be for use in the criminal proceeding against the impaired driver. As for those who would criticize the widower during his grieving shame on you.

    • Celine Childs
      August 07, 2012 - 15:46

      I AM constantly amazed at some Islander's repeated Ignorance, Apathy, Stupidness. YES, there are politicians, their government employeed PR Spin Doctors along with their Lawyeers who 'stuff' The Guardian's Comment section however, there are also simpleton citizens who also jump on the government's - political parties individuals that comment under assumed-false names / handles too. * * Then PEIslanders try to come off as being friendly, helpful, kind people when nothing could be further from the truth. ** I'd almost feel sorry for people who are so ignorant-apathetic, people so filled with hate if they weren't so literally disgusting with their repeated hate filled comments and to cowardly to put their real names to their disgusting comments.

  • harbourgal
    August 07, 2012 - 00:29

    Absolutely right to blame Trudeau and the Charter for our "catch and release" justice system. Also correct in saying the roads are unsafe for bikes. I live on a side-road (dead-end), and the residents got mad when the speed limit was reduced to 70!

    • Piet Hein
      August 07, 2012 - 23:35

      So Harbourgal, why don't you tell us the ideal country would like to live in since you are not that fond of Canada. Also, please tell us why you have not moved there. I hardly think anyone here would miss you.

  • Barrister
    August 07, 2012 - 00:14

    Loose the lawyers - a law suit is coming.

  • The Crow
    August 06, 2012 - 23:41

    Just wondering why he posted "a victim impact statement" on line before he has even launched a probable lawsuit,. No doubt paving the way for the jury.

  • Dave Jenkins
    August 06, 2012 - 23:37

    This is not the only province the couple had cycled in. Is he trying to say that every other area they travelled in had paved shoulders and P.E.I. stands alone as the only province that does not have paved shoulders?

  • Sorry for your troubles.
    August 06, 2012 - 22:59

    I am sorry about the sad loss of Mr. Aunger's loss of his wife. I too know that many of the roads on PEI are unsafe for cyclists. I do not cycle on the highways for that very reason. In fact, when I see a road I think is unsafe, I avoid it, or if a short distance, walk my bike. While I sympathize with the death of Elizabeth, I cannot help but wonder why Mr. Aunger chose not to ride behind his wife, and also how they arrived from the B&B to the trail. Blaming the government for advertising cycling holidays is like blaming them for someone drowning in our waters. My suggestion, since there is no money to pave shoulders on virtually every highway on PEI, is to stop advertising it as a place that is safe to cycle on. End of.

    • SLG
      August 07, 2012 - 11:41

      It sounds like the couple was cycling across the Island so probably did not stay in the same B&B the night before. I don't think they cycled from that B&B to the trail earlier. And to answer your question as to why he was ahead of his wife (though I'm not sure why that matters), Mr. Aunger states in the article he was ahead of his wife at this time to lead to the B&B. Maybe he knew where the B&B was and she did not. I've done many cycling vacations and we don't usually stay at the same place twice if it is a riding day. That's what a cycling trip is. We travel by bike, we don't stay in one place and go out for daily rides. And it's the person who knows where he is going that leads. My sympathies to a fellow cyclist.

  • don
    August 06, 2012 - 22:18

    jason d. i agree and they will have more drunks with booze stores open 7 days a week and selling booze to underage friends. but if this so called government cared they would make drunks pay higher fines, take there cars and sell them and jail time if they lose there job so be it we have lots on pei to take there place. but hard to replace a life. so dizzy you and yr money hungry gang how many killings are you going to allow before you clamp down on drunks, they are murders

  • jason d
    August 06, 2012 - 21:15

    What BS. I think someone driving stone drunk had a little to do with it. Any half sober driver would have seen her safety vest and bright red saddle bags. It's time to crack down on impaired driving!

    • neil
      August 06, 2012 - 21:59

      BS Jason? Really? We all know that drunk driving was a contributing factor to this accident, but if there was a paved shoulder then this biker likely wouldn't have been hit at all. When is PEI going to wake up a realize that everything they do to cut corners has a direct impact of the Safety of residents. PEI has worse roads than the NWT and Yukon, believe me I know.

  • WeAreSoSpineless
    August 06, 2012 - 20:31

    Grieving or not, this man has a very valid point. One must wonder just how much alcohol contributed to this accident. I'm fully behind incarcerating this man, if he's found guilty, for the rest of his natural life. I'm also in agreement with Mr Aunger. While PEI may be very pretty to see by bicycle, it's decades away from being appropriately safe. Any paint applied to the roads is washed away in just weeks. Close to the entire island is very poorly lit. These charming back roads that are so pretty to bike down are constructed as an afterthought. Blind hills are expected. Such small lanes in extremely bumpy conditions, however, are deadly. Despite the advertisements otherwise, PEI is simply unsafe for bicyclists. When police actually start enforcing bylaws rather than just in awareness crackdowns that fade in 24 hours, motorists might actually start to make an effort. As for the DUI's, you can thank Mr Trudeau for the Charter. A repeat DUI offender gets thrown in jail, he/she is let right back out again. Mandatory minimums that will put these repeat offenders in actual prison for decade stretches might bring the message home. Until then, expect DUI to continue as PEI's provincial pastime.

    • Piet Hein
      August 06, 2012 - 23:29

      WEARESOSPINLESS, you made sense until you threw your right wing politics into it. To use this death as a rallying cry to attack the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is so obnoxious it is beyond words. Typical right wing crackpot. Conservatives hate the Charter exactly because it gives all Canadians rights and freedoms - two things the right cannot stand.

  • Janet Gaudet
    August 06, 2012 - 20:18

    Mr. Aunger, I am so sorry for your tragic loss. As am Islander, I can tell you firsthand this government does not listen and I will be amazed if you get any results. I hope you do but I'm not hopeful. I am one of many Islanders who have appealed to this government about many things that are important to us and we have been completely ignored. I will follow this story to see if you receive any response. This government only pays attention to those who agree with everything they say and do.

  • johnthames
    August 06, 2012 - 20:16

    Island drivers are a texting, cell phone talking, speeding, drinking disgrace. The RCMP know how bad the speeders are in Stratford but do nothing. The province with their engineers who gradutated in the 1950's only put up roadblocks to change. Hunter River got it right, now the rest of the island needs to get it right. And tickets need to be issued, not just warnings. An absolute disgrace and I am very sorry this gentleman found out how bad things are by losing his wife. We do not drive our bikes or walk on any main road far too dangerous even on the sidewalk.

    • Piet Hein
      August 07, 2012 - 00:01

      john Thames, speak for yourself. I ride a bike every day and with proper common sense precautions I feel perfectly safe. By the way, what do you mean "Hunter River got it right" If you mean the improved Highway #2 through the village, Hunter River did not have much to do with that. The improvements were done by the very same government engineers from the 1950s you so gleefully mock.

    • Aaron
      August 07, 2012 - 09:45

      PH... I think he meant the speed meter and frequent ticketing of offenders in Hunter River, not the design of the road itself. What is gleeful about this? I almost cried reading this poor man's tragic recounting of this horrible event. Shame on you for attacking someone who supports this man's point of view that some roads are dangerous for biking. Have you nothing better to do than spend your time trolling a story about a tragic accident?