Members of a Toronto advocacy group installed a white ghost bike near a major road in Milton on Sunday in memory of a Mississauga man who loved to cycle.
Ignacio Viana, 81, went missing on a long bike ride. He was found dead by a passerby in the area of Lower Base Line West, east of Sixth Line, on Thursday, Sept. 23 at about 10:25 a.m., according to Halton Regional Police.
Viana had been reported missing to Peel Regional Police on Sept. 17. He was last seen at his home in Mississauga on that day at about 10 a.m., wearing an orange cycling jersey and riding a grey bicycle.
Family members say they have been told that Viana died of a heart attack and he was found in a ditch by the side of the road. Police have not released his official cause of death.
Viana used to cycle about 50 kilometres a day. Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) set up the ghost bike.
When his wife, Nybia Viana, 87, was asked what she will miss about her husband, she said in Spanish: "Everything."
Nybia and Ignacio were from Uruguay and came to Canada in 1976. They were married for 52 years. Ignacio cycled from an early age. Two years ago, he fulfilled a life long dream, which was to go on a trip to Spain and to ride a portion of the Tour de France.
His niece, Nancy Serron, said: "Her favourite thing is when they took off in the car and they went with no particular destination. Sometimes they would go and would go to little towns."
Serron added: "He loved being in the country roads where there are no cars and he could just cycle. When you saw him talk about cycling, which was his passion, you could see a sparkle in his eye."
She said Ignacio acted as a father to her because her own father died at a young age. Ignacio was "helpful" and "humble" and never asked for anything in return, she said. "He was there for everybody."
Joey Schwartz, a co-ordinator of ARC, said the ghost bike will serve as a visual reminder. ARC, which began in 1996, describes itself as the people who place white bikes as memorials to fallen cyclists.
"It's nice to remind people that a cyclist died here and died what he liked doing, which was endurance cycling," Schwartz said on Sunday.
Schwartz said Lower Base Line is a busy route for long-distance cyclists that acts as a gateway to parts of Southwestern Ontario.
"I think it's great that someone can be active in their older age and basically die doing what they enjoy doing and do it in a way that basically in a way that shows spirit. The man really had a good spirit for cycling."
'We see ourselves in these bikes'
Geoffrey Bercarich, another coordinator of ARC, added: "We see ourselves in these bikes. All the time. Whenever I put one up, I always think, it could be me. That's me.
"And that's one of the main reasons I do this, to try to convey that concern that we are not riding alone. We all share the road together, motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, together. We can all remember that it needs to be a complete street that can be used by everyone, not just simply an exclusive population."
Bercarich said it is the "ultimate nightmare" for cyclists to be left alone for hours on a country road. "I really wish that he wasn't alone like that," he said.
ARC members biked 10 kilometres from the Oakville GO station to where Viana was found dead in Milton. They chained a white bike to a street sign in his honour. Serron spoke to group members at the site.
"We always thought of my uncle as superman. He cycled every day for 50K at his age. It was an amazing feat," she said. "It happened so suddenly for us. It crushed us."
Serron thanked group members for helping to look for her uncle, saying they have restored her faith in humanity. "You guys have made a nightmare more bearable. All your messages, your texts, your calls, we really appreciate it. Thank you for being there for us and showing your love and support," she said.