Thirteen-year-old Isabel Huang has been in hospital in Abbotsford for two weeks after she was hit by a van riding her bike home from Chilliwack Middle School. (Submitted)

Struck down, but not out

Chilliwack family fights to ensure student cyclists are safe on local roads

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2016 edition of the Chilliwack Times

Thirteen-year-old Isabel Huang woke up on Sept. 23, had breakfast with her family and got ready for Friday in the third week of Grade 8. The enthusiastic Chilliwack Middle School (CMS) honours student hopped on her bike as so many young people do and headed off to class.

A clear day, it was on the way home riding along Spadina Avenue when a delivery van crashed into her at the four-way stop at Mary Street.

Left covered in blood on the pavement , Isabel suffered compound fractures, breaking six bones in her leg.

“We almost lost her,” mother Jennifer Chen told the Times this week.

“We sent her to school as a healthy kid and all of a sudden we see her covered with blood, bones sticking out of her leg. It was a very brutal scene.”

Two weeks later, Isabel has missed all that time at school and is still, as of this week, at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

She went through a seven-hour surgery, had two metal rods inserted in her leg and the doctor still wants to keep an eye on the 13-year-old’s recovery.

Jennifer said she and her husband, Isabel’s father, Luoyi Huang are left to balance both the sadness of the situation with the desire to remain positive, further still with an anger against the driver who they believe carelessly hit their girl.

Jennifer says the delivery driver denied wrongdoing and was not charged despite the fact they claim he made a right turn through a stop sign without stopping. Isabel was in no state to defend herself nor make a proper statement after such a serious injury.

Chilliwack RCMP confirmed a traffic collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle at the intersection of Mary Street and Spadina Avenue at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 23.

Officers from the Chilliwack RCMP Traffic Services attended the scene, and police are conducting an investigation into the collision.

“Road safety in Chilliwack is a priority to police,” said Cpl. Mike Rail, spokesperson for the Chilliwack RCMP.

Isabel and her family are left with the trauma of the incident, and what could be weeks or months of rehabilitation.

“It’s a very challenging time for Isabel,” Jennifer said. “She has been quite strong and we tried to be positive around it.. .. Hopefully we are going to help Isabel and find some positive out of this.”

Regardless of blame, the family is focused on cycling infrastructure and how legal bike riders are treated on the streets, particularly schoolaged commuters.

“What happened to us can happen to any parents and any student out there,” Jennifer said. “There are so many students riding bikes to school these days. The locker rooms at the CMS alone are too small. They had to get more spaces for more student bike storage. How do we ensure our children’s safety as a community should they choose to bike to school?” Isabel has had incredible support from CMS as her principal Paula Gosal and classmates have all visited her at the hospital.

One element of coincidence to the story is that Isabel wrote a letter printed in the Sept. 1 Times complaining that she had ridden the bus for seven years. She said it was unfair that as a Grade 8 French Immersion student she was in the very small group of students left forced to pay bus fees waived for almost all others.

“My classmates and I joined French Immersion because we wanted to learn about the French language and their culture. How can we do that if parents struggle to even send us to school?” she wrote.

“We would just like to continue to use the bus as a way of safe transportation to get to school.”

Cycling front and centre City council and others are focused on increasing cycling safety in the city with the Cycle Vision Chilliwack event Oct. 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Cycle Vision is part of the city’s Transportation Plan update project and the open house event is designed to get feedback on a comprehensive cycling plan for the city.

Resources for cycling safety The Chilliwack RCMP also point to a number of sources for cycling safety, including bit. ly/RCMPbikesafe.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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