Local riders honour young cyclist one year after his death
A year ago, Clément Ouimet tragically lost his life on Camillien-Houde Way in a collision. His bike is still hanging there, a white fixie strapped on the side of the road. The two hockey sticks in an X shape are no longer dangling under the bicycle, but the 18-year-old cyclist is far from forgotten.
On Oct. 4, more than 200 people attended the silent ascension up Camillien-Houde Way on Mount Royal to honour Ouimet’s memory. There were two words on everyone’s minds: “Salut Clément.”
Ouimet’s team, many rival cycling clubs, and his friends were present at the event. “We just didn’t understand,” said Antoine Ippersiel, a friend of Clément. “He was 18 and just like that, he wasn’t there anymore. It was hard to accept it.”
Bernard Fortin, Ouimet’s neighbour, still has vivid memories of him. He considered Clément his son: “I’ve know him since he’s a toddler. We’ve seen him ride his first bike, we’ve seen him skate, we’ve seen him do everything. We also lent him our tools to fix his bike,” Fortin said. “We almost felt responsible that he biked. But yeah, life was evil.”
Annie Lafontaine, who had only seen Ouimet at the Bromont velodrome a few years ago, said it is important to show Clément’s parents that they still remember him. “I met his parents when we strapped the bike,” said Lafontaine. She wanted to show them that people continue to support them by bringing flowers to Clément’s memorial. “I say to myself that, if they pass by, whether by bike or by car, they will know that there are other people in life that support them, and that are trying to send good thoughts,” she added.
The white bike and the hockey sticks mark the exact spot of the crash and hold a lot of meaning.
“Those, I see almost every day and they mean a lot to me,” said former professional cyclist James Piccoli. “I look at them every time I pass. It’s been a nice little reminder to give me perspective every time I’m training here.”
Maxime Martin, Ouimet’s girlfriend’s father, said not every driver is a maniac, and that sometimes cyclists take unnecessary risks too. He wants cyclists and drivers to properly share roads. “You hope that, when people pass by the white bike, they think: ‘OK. Am I really in such a hurry?’ and on bicycles: ‘Am I really being careful enough?’ That’s the presence we want to win with the message,” Martin said. He added that it makes him angry to think it took such a tragic event to send a message to make things safer for cyclists.
“I think we gave honour to Clément, but it’s really to send a message to Montreal and to provincial jurisdictions,” said the event’s organizer, Marc-Antoine Desjardins. “It’s important to have safety measures for the most vulnerable and that’s only possible from safe infrastructures accessible to cyclists, pedestrians, elderly people, students, children […] We’ve seen many nice things [regarding this issue] during the electoral campaign. I’m excited to see the results.”
However, Desjardins said, the memorial was for Clément Ouimet: “We won’t forget you Clément. We’re never going to forget you; count on us to perpetually remind everyone who you were and honour your memory. Salut Clément.”
Main photo by Jad Abukasm.