September 12, 2011, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
As recently reported in the Waterloo Region Record. The number of accidents and the types of accidents shows that the Region needs to develop a long term transportation strategy that accommodates car drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians safely.
Cyclists at fault in majority of bike-vehicle collisions
WATERLOO REGION — Almost 200 cyclists were hit by vehicles on roads and streets in this region last year, sparking calls for more cycling lanes and bike trails and more education for both riders and drivers.
Most of the collisions occurred at intersections and most happened when cyclists riding on sidewalks continued into the intersection along the crosswalk, according to numbers collected by the region and the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
Cyclists were doing something wrong in 71 per cent of the collisions. But in the remainder, cyclists were not at fault. That appears to be the case in the only fatal cyclist-car collision in Waterloo Region in 2010.
At 2 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2010, a car collided with a cyclist riding in the bicycle lane near Seagram Drive and Westmount Road in Waterloo. The car driver has been charged.
Last Friday morning, to mark the anniversary of that tragedy, Tim Kenyon, a philosophy professor at the University of Waterloo and a cycling advocate, stood on the median near University Avenue and Westmount Road with a sign reading “Respect Cyclists.”
While doing that Kenyon, found himself shouting advice to cyclists riding past on the sidewalks.
“While I was there, I saw a woman crossing Westmount at University, riding along the sidewalk. She crossed on to the island from the sidewalk and there was a car turning that had to hit the brakes,” Kenyon says.
“Intuitively, people feel safer on the sidewalk and it is really hard to explain. Believe it or not, the statistics don’t lie and you are much safer to ride legally on the road,” Kenyon says.
“The most dangerous thing you can do is cross an intersection riding off the sidewalk,” Kenyon says.
Brian Pollock rides his bicycle to work on Park Street in Kitchener every day from his home on Chicopee Park Court. Pollock is not surprised by the number of cyclist-vehicle accidents.
“The city does not do a whole lot,” the 55-year-old Pollock says. “They need more bike lanes whenever they redo a road, and they don’t seem to do that.”
After developing a new cycling master plan in 2009 and 2010, city councillors in Kitchener in March killed the funding to begin implementation. The city’s cycling advisory committee protested to no avail.
“I think it’s a case of education and sharing of space,” says Chuck Hammel, of the Waterloo Region Cycling Club.
“Everybody in the mix — cyclists, pedestrians and driver — has to be aware of their rights and duties and obligations and hopefully follow that,” Hammel says.
Eleanor McMahon, founder of the Ontario Share the Road Coalition, says the numbers are disturbing.
Instead of blaming cyclists for breaking the law and riding on sidewalks, it is better to ask why the cyclists are on the sidewalks in the first place, McMahon says.
“Do you know why they ride on the sidewalks? Because they don’t feel safe riding on the roads,” McMahon says.
“So what I say is: stop the pointing of fingers and turn to our politicians and say: ‘Your responsibility is to make our roads safer for everybody,’ ” McMahon says.
McMahon says more education for cyclists and drivers is a must.
“I would like to see the region put in place a comprehensive strategy to deal with this. It begs the question: OK we now have the data — what are we doing about it?” McMahon says.
She is supported by Phil Martin, a Grade 5 teacher at Sheppard Public School on Weber Street in Kitchener. After watching a youngster unsafely ride his bicycle home a few years ago, Martin knew he had to do something.
With help from the regional police and public health department, Martin set up a bicycle safety training program for students from Grade 3 to Grade 6. It covers rules of the road and safety, basic maintenance, riding properly on local streets and a skills rodeo.
“Bicycles and bicycle training are really important,” Martin says. “I have seen kids ride and sometimes my heart is in my mouth.”
And it seems schoolchildren are not the only ones who need training. Every age group, from teens to seniors, were involved in bicycle-vehicle collisions in Kitchener last year, John McBride, the city’s transportation director, says.
“Our age brackets go from less than 14 to greater than 65,” McBride says of the cyclists. “It is split fairly evenly among every age group.”
The average age for cyclists involved in accidents on regional roads last year was 27. Some training is available through cycling clubs and the CAN-Bike program offered through Transport Canada.
Jason Leach, of the Cambridge transportation department, wants something done to increase awareness about riding off sidewalks and into intersections.
“In light of the number of cyclists hit in crosswalks, we are pursuing a media campaign with the Region of Waterloo,” Leach says.
One accident, on May 25 last year in Cambridge, is illustrative of four of the seven cyclist-vehicles collisions in that city during 2010.
Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day at Dunbar and Hespeler roads, a 17-year-old cyclist disobeyed the traffic signal and rode off the sidewalk into the intersection — smack into the side of a police cruiser making a right turn.
Graham Roe is a year-round cyclist who says three things are needed to make cycling safer.
First, he cites more programs to increase awareness about safe cycling and the need for lights.
“Perhaps bikes needs to be sold with quality lighting, as in Europe, rather than as an add on,” Roe says.
Second, he says, legislation is needed that requires cars to stay at least one metre away from bicycles when passing. So far, the New Democratic Party is the only provincial party to promise that in the current election campaign.
“It may not be easily enforceable, but it goes a long way to raise awareness, especially when it’s part of passing an exam to get a driver’s licence,” Roe says.
And third, he says, more cycling infrastructure that separates vehicles and bicycles is needed.
“I’m a firm believer that if segregated cycling infrastructure was created we’d see a huge increase in cycling,” Roe says.
Car and bicycle collisions:
• 142 cyclists were hit by vehicles on regional roads in 2010: 66 in Kitchener, 45 in Waterloo, 28 Cambridge and three in townships.
One cyclist was killed and 118 were injured. Eight of the injuries were major.
41 of the collisions occurred with bicycles on the roadway.
58 occurred when cyclists rode in a crosswalk against a red light.
19 cyclists were hit riding in crosswalks with a green light.
Three cyclists were hit riding on sidewalks going in the same direction as traffic.
Nine cyclists were hit on sidewalks riding against the direction of traffic.
Seven cyclists were hit while riding against traffic on the roadway.
Five cyclists were hit while crossing a road, not at an intersection.
Cyclists were doing something wrong in 71 per cent of collisions.
Cyclists were not at fault in 29 per cent of the collisions.
Of the 142 collisions on regional roads, 95 were between bikes and cars, 26 between bikes and SUVs, 14 between bikes and pickups, two between bikes and delivery vans, one each between a bike and a police car, a transit bus and a big truck, and two involving no other vehicle.
Of those 142 collisions, 76 occurred at intersections, 24 at private driveways, 27 were intersection related and 15 were on other parts of the roadway.
In addition to the 142 bike-vehicle collisions on regional roads, there were another 34 on local streets in Kitchener, seven in Cambridge, and up to 11 in Waterloo.
Sources: Region of Waterloo, cities of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo