Ontario heartbroken by the loss of 10-year-old cyclist killed by driver
Just weeks after Toronto's first cyclist fatality of 2021, another tragedy struck when 10-year-old cyclist Nikita Victoria Belykh was struck and killed by a car just north of the city, near Highway 7 and Dufferin Street on September 1.
The family of the victim released a statement last week through the York Regional Police, saying, "We are utterly shocked and heartbroken by the tragic loss of Nikita - a beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister and shining star."
"She had a huge heart, was courageous, very friendly and full of life. She touched the lives of many in her short time here on earth."
Included in the statement is a link to a GoFundMe page set up by the family six days ago with the goal of raising $40,000. This goal has already been shattered, with donations at over $54,000 at the time of writing.
Like the last cyclist's death in the region, the victim was honoured with a funereal ghost bike ride on the one-week anniversary of her death, a tradition in the cycling community where a white-painted "ghost bike" is placed at the scene where the tragedy occurred.
Crushing sadness today. Our hearts are with Nikita Victoria Belykh's parents and family, today and every day. Adults are supposed to keep kids safe, not kill them slamming SUVs into them on the sidewalk. The world is broken. Thank you @RespectTO and everyone who came. #GhostBike pic.twitter.com/HYB7DX9J2U— FFSS (@FFSafeStreets) September 8, 2021
Cycling groups including Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS) and Advocacy For Respect For Cyclists (ARC) were in attendance, gathering outside of Finch subway station before departing north on a route towards the scene where the young cyclist was struck.
Thank you @RespectTO for organizing today's ghost bike ride for 10 year old Nikita. Nikita was riding her bike on the sidewalk near a community centre when she was hit and killed by a driver. Her death was not an accident. Her death was preventable. https://t.co/tMArpN357G pic.twitter.com/LAp1EUmAVT— Midweek Cycling (@midweekcycling) September 8, 2021
The procession arrived at the Thornhill site, where a large memorial was already in place. Finally, the ghost bike was installed, bringing a lasting monument for Nikita to the site.
This 10 year old did not start school this week.— Tom Flood (@tomflood1) September 8, 2021
We have heartbreakingly failed another child and devastated a family. For what? The speedy movement of vehicular traffic. That’s it.
Our culture's grotesque reverence to the automobile is stealing our loved ones and we don't care. https://t.co/GfrgwxwSJO
Jessica Spieker, spokesperson for FFSS, tells blogTO, "there is no amount of driving convenience that is worth more than a child's life. Nikita's family has been thrust into a nightmare that they will never wake up from."
Nikita's is the sixth such ghost bike installed in the Greater Toronto Area this year, and the third ghost bike installed to mark the loss of a child in the region for 2021. This latest fatality follows the loss of a six-year-old in Mississauga and an eleven-year-old in Markham earlier this year.
"The senseless death of a child is the most painful thing that life can possibly offer a parent. It is perverse that as a society, we so often do nothing to prevent these deaths from being inflicted again in the future when there are so many simple, cost-effective solutions at our fingertips. The main missing ingredient for life-saving change is political will from our elected officials," says Spieker.
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