Two years after cyclist’s death, Edmontonians plan to honour him with unique memorial

Watch above: A group of Edmontonians is planning a unique memorial for a University of Alberta student who died suddenly two years ago. A parklet is being proposed to honour his memory. Shallima Maharaj reports.

EDMONTON – An Edmonton landscape architecture student is hoping to honour the life of a local cyclist, who died two years ago, with a unique temporary memorial.

Jonathan Behnke is proposing setting up a ‘parklet’ over several parking stalls along Whyte Avenue. The pop-up public memorial is meant to commemorate the life of Isaak Kornelsen, a 21-year-old University of Alberta student who was killed instantly when he hit the mirror of a parked truck, falling beneath a moving cement truck in August 2012.

While Behnke wasn’t really close with Kornelsen, he says his death greatly impacted him.

“It really made me think about how quickly a life can end and how vulnerable people like cyclists and pedestrians can be on the street.”

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READ MORE: Cyclist killed instantly in crash on Whyte Ave.

A parklet is a concept that started in San Francisco that adds pedestrian-friendly green spaces to urban areas. While his main goal is to honour Kornelsen, Behnke hopes the parklet will also bring awareness to the importance of sharing the road.

“The goal is to try to get people thinking. And maybe if more of these things can pop up, more seating areas on Whyte Ave., it’ll become a more complete street, a safer and comfortable street for all users,” he said.

Jonathan Behnke's parklet design. Supplied, Jonathan Behnke
Jonathan Behnke's parklet design. Supplied, Jonathan Behnke
Jonathan Behnke's parklet design. Supplied, Jonathan Behnke
Jonathan Behnke's parklet design. Supplied, Jonathan Behnke

Whyte Avenue is a popular route for cyclists wanting to commute through Old Strathcona. Chris Chan, executive director of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, says Kornelsen’s death impacted the entire cycling community and sparked a discussion on dedicated bike lanes.

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“It really hits close to home, so we really recognize the need, the really imminent need, for good cycling infrastructure so that we can all be safe.”

Chan has been involved in discussions with the City of Edmonton on how best to approach bike lanes in the area. He says a number of options are being looked at including protected bike lanes directly on the Avenue, or on the Avenues north and south of Whyte.

“It’s looking promising now. The big push now is to make sure that the city commits to whatever we end up deciding as a community.”

Behnke is still going through the process of obtaining the proper permits for the parklet, but he says it has been designed with Kornelsen in mind.

“The design of the project was meant to sort of reflect Isaak’s values and his personality.”

Behnke hopes to set up the parklet along Whyte Ave. between 101 and 102 Streets, the site where Kornelsen’s accident occurred.

It will pop up on August 29. A memorial bike ride from Churchill Square to the parklet site is also being organized.

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