Cycling Path Usage in London, Ontario

Discussions about the need for cycling facilities require good and detailed data about usage and non-usage by the public. The City of London provides very minimal public data about cycling volumes and general pedestrian usage of the paths within the City. The above photo shows a newer section of path created in 2018 south of Trafalgar Street in East London. The volume of pedestrians and cyclists using this section of path is publicly unknown.

London Ontario, like many North American cities is working quickly at upgrading and expanding their network of cycling paths. However the City have installed these facilities in a piecemeal fashion. Some newer sections of the Thames Valley Parkway, a network of paths of approximately 40 kilometres in length, are of a high standard. Yet some older sections contain serious safety problems. Similar problems exist on the City’s lengths of boulevard and on-road paths. Many of these paths are constructed for short distances then come to an abrupt end. Cyclists face the danger of being run over when seemingly helpful paths end and place cyclists close to high volumes of higher speed traffic not suitable for cyclists.

In some ways the notion of developing paths as quickly as possible makes some sense. Eventually all the discontinuous paths will be filled in. In the meantime many good quality facilities sit idle without much usage as they await some form of connection that will make them useful. The costly cycling path along Fanshawe Park Road in north-east London is an example of a project that was created but produced minimal usage by cyclists.

This view of Fanshawe Park Road in London was taken on March 6, 2017 just as the cycling path was completed between Highbury and Adelaide Streets. This path was of a higher standard even though it did not possess the critical protective separation between cyclists and motorized traffic.

This summertime view of Fanshawe Park Road shows that, after the cycling path was fully competed it was deserted in terms of cycling traffic. It is unknown whether cyclists do not use this path because of safety concerns or lack of connections, both, or some other reason.

Even over three years after the Fanshawe Park Road cycling path was completed it still shows evidence of a bare minimum of usage by cyclists. It is not clear if the lack of usage is due to safety concerns because the path does not contain a physical barrier from motorized traffic. The posted maximum speed limit for Fanshawe park Road is 60 km/h but with a lack of enforcement the speed limit is generally exceeded. Also it could be due to a lack of connections with other paths. Or perhaps it is simply located in an illogical part of the City for cyclist use. And it could be a combination of all three, or other reasons. The reasons are simply unknown.

While the City of London continues to create cycling infrastructure there is no way for the average citizen to evaluate whether these costs are creating useful facilities. This is because there is minimal information regarding the usage or non-usage of City roads by cyclists. No help has been provided by the City to ensure that its citizens are informed by such data. This is in keeping with the City’s general behaviour of isolating itself from advice outside of its own Transportation and Planning Departments. Recent actions by City staff and its representatives threaten to dismantle many of the citizen advisory committees that provided some connection between the City and its citizens. These committees were not functioning efficiently partly because of interference by City staff and its refusal to allow the committees an independent voice at meetings.

In an attempt to improve on this lack of data, Gorski Consulting has reviewed its historical records of videotape taken along various roads in the City. Analysis was conducted of the video to extract the volumes of cyclists and pedestrians observed. This data has been tabulated in a spreadsheet which is shown below. The volumes are reported at a per hour basis.

The City map below shows where these videotaping sessions were located.

This map shows the locations of the historical videotaping sessions that were analyzed to extract cyclist and pedestrian volumes.

As can be seen in the above table, on average, there were 18 cyclists observed during the 12 videotaping sessions that were analyzed at six locations in the City. Higher cyclist volumes were observed along the Thames Valley Parkway such as the Pottersburg and Richmond sites (1,2,3 and 4). In contrast lower cyclist volumes were observed along the boulevard and on-road paths such as Wonderland (7) and Oxford (8,9). The Gainsborough site (5,6) also showed a lower level of usage but that path was very short and isolated from connections to other parts of the City’s path systems. Higher cyclist volumes were observed in old data obtained in 2007 at the Adelaide Street boulevard path (10,11,12).

One has to face the reality that an average of 18 cyclists per hour is not much when compared to the thousands of motorized vehicles that pass a similar location every hour. A reasonable approach is to ask why these volumes are so low and what can be done to improve cyclist volumes in the City. In many Cities cyclist traffic is far greater. The spending of infrastructure money on cycling paths that show minimal use without asking why this is happening is a wasteful endevour. At a time when climate change must be addressed and the health of the public could be greatly improved through cycling, more action must be taken to improve on cycling volumes in the City.

The above data has been obtained from observations during warm weather months. So cyclist volumes would be expected to be higher than during the cold winter months. But no information is available as to how much the cyclist volume falls during the winter season.

A common dilemma for many cyclists in the City of London is that snowfall prevents cycling adjacent to lanes of motorized traffic. Snow removal is predominantly performed to allow motorized traffic the convenience of moving efficiently to a destination, but the same consideration is not given to cyclists. Riding within the traffic lane presents an obvious danger of being injured, or worse.

Physical infrastructure can be built but it requires maintenance to make cycling paths functional. Thus a concerted effort toward repairing path surfaces and clearing snow must be a top priority.

These are the kind of data that are needed for the public to obtain a better idea of the cycling volume within the City and whether the City’s money is being spent in the right direction. Much more data is needed and Gorski Consulting is endeavouring, when possible, to obtain and report it.

No Comments on Fatal Concrete Barrier Failure on Hwy 401 in Mississauga Ontario

This is a wonderful picture of Santa Claus, but it has nothing to do with the present article. We cannot show you the relevant photos even though they may be of critical importance to public safety.

Once again police and official news media have failed to inform the public about a deadly roadway failure that likely led to the death of two, and possibly three, road users in a collision that occurred on Highway 401 in Mississauga, Ontario yesterday.

Not surprisingly little information was publicly divulged. A few photos of the collision site were displayed on websites of official news agencies but no photos were provided by the investigating police. This means that photos of the site cannot be published by Gorski Consulting as they are deemed copyrighted. Yet they are essential to the public’s knowledge of a deadly circumstance.

Police provided a confusing description of what happened. Even a later clarification was also confusing. But generally the collision reportedly unfolded when two westbound vehicles, a Lexus SUV and a Ford Pick-up truck collided in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Winston Churchill Blvd yesterday morning, November 21, 2020. This impact led  to the Ford Pick-up truck crashing through the concrete median barrier and colliding with an eastbound Dodge minivan.

Although the police explanation is confusing, it appears that two persons in the Ford Pick-up truck sustained fatal injuries. A third occupant of the Ford Pick-up truck sustained critical injuries.

News media have failed to highlight the fact that the Ford Pick-up truck should not have successfully passed through the concrete median barrier. Similarly police have also said nothing about this failure. The few photos of the site show that portable concrete barriers (PCBs) were in place at the outer edges of the highway and therefore this was likely a construction zone – another important fact that was not clarified. It is always a concern that adjustments to normal travel in a construction zone can lead to collisions and it needs to be noted whether or not such adjustments could have influenced the initial impact between the Lexus and Ford. Regardless, the main issue is that once the initial impact occurred the median barrier should have contained the impacting vehicles within the westbound lanes. That is the purpose of constructing a concrete median barrier. The on-site photos show that a portion of the concrete median barrier was broken out and it seems highly likely that this is the point that was struck by the Ford Pick-up truck as it crashed through the barrier. Again, neither police or official news media have confirmed this. It is a deafening silence.

The testing of the performance of roadway structures has long been standardized through protocols that have been primarily developed in the U.S. As with almost all highway and vehicles matters, Canadian standards mimic those of the U.S. for important harmonization reasons. Thus it would be ridiculous, for example, to have the travel directions on highways changed just because drivers cross international borders. Or that road signs should be totally different in the two countries. Or that certain vehicle safety features should be vastly different. Harmonization is extremely important for all road users in North America.

Thus, with respect to barrier safety testing, Canada must follow certain protocols similar to those in the U.S. An older U.S. protocol named NCHRP 350 was recently replaced by another called MASH. Both of these deal with testing of concrete barriers by impacting them in controlled tests by vehicles of various sizes, weights and angles of approach. Regardless of which protocol is used, a typical pick-up truck should not be able to crash through a concrete median barrier. If such a situation occurred the barrier would not be allowed to be installed on a U.S. highway. But does the Province of Ontario follow the protocols established by the U.S. Departments of Transportation? Does the Province of Ontario follow any protocols at all? This has not been revealed. And it certainly has not be discussed in the reporting of the present crash which is directly related to the the Province’s safety responsibilities.

These discussions are matters of critical importance to the safety of all citizens of Ontario and throughout Canada. Government transportation departments should not have card blanche to do as they please without accountability to public scrutiny. And police and news media fail in their obligations to the public when they fail to inform the public of these critical matters.

Dangerous LED Traffic Signals Covered By Snow Cause Vehicles to Pass Through a Red Light

LED traffic signals are inexpensive to operate. And they do well in warm weather. But when there is a snowfall and low temperatures the lack of heat causes snow to adhere to the lamps and obscure them. This signal was found on southbound Wellington Road in London, Ontario and it caused four vehicles to pass through it, fortunately without causing a collision.

This is a warning to the public of the dangers that exist with LED traffic signals which become covered by snow due to their lack of heat production. While LED signals are cheap to operate they pose a danger in winter conditions when they become covered in snow and their illumination is obscured. This article shows a specific instance that occurred at approximately 1120 hours on the morning of November 17, 2020 on Wellington Road in London, Ontario. The southbound traffic signal on Wellington Road became partially obscured as shown in the photo above. This caused a series of southbound vehicles to pass through the intersection when the signal was red. This development was captured by both still photos and by video showing a Toyota Camry that was entering the intersection on a green signal when the noted vehicles also entered on a red signal.

This is a view looking southward along Wellington Road approaching the overpass of Highway 401 in London, Ontario in the late morning of November 17, 2020. The snow-covered traffic signal is located at the top on the overpass in the distant background.

This view shows the snow-covered traffic signal at the Highway 401 overpass. Vehicles exiting from Highway 401 onto Wellington Road come to a stop at a T-intersection on the right side of this view.

This view shows a Toyota Camry whose driver came to a stop at the T-intersection of the exit ramp of Highway 401 and he is about to make a left turn to travel southward on Wellington Road. Video captured what happened when four southbound vehicles, one after the other, passed through the red signal while the Toyota driver was entering the intersection on a green signal.

This is a frame from a series taken from video as the Toyota Camry driver commenced his left turn onto Wellington Road. Watch as the four vehicles pass through the intersection from the right to the left.

 

Here the video frame shows the Toyota driver accelerating from his stopped position onto Wellington Road.

This video frame shows how the Toyota driver suddenly applies his brakes as he has detected the vehicles passing through the red traffic signal. Fortunately he was observant enough but the situation could have been much different.

This video frame shows the Toyota continuing to move forward while braking to a stop as the driver has detected vehicles approaching through the red signal.

This video frame shows the first of four vehicles that passed through the red traffic signal. The Toyota driver appears to have released his brake as he seems to expect that the other traffic will not pass through. But that is not the case…

This video frame shows the Toyota driver has still released his brake and the Toyota is crawling forward as the driver likely does not understand why a second vehicle could pass through the same red signal.

This video frame shows a very fast moving black SUV or Minivan that is passing by the Toyota. The vehicle’s speed has blurred its image in this frame. The Toyota driver has re-applied his brakes as he now understands that these vehicles are not stopping for the red signal.

This view shows the third vehicle passing through the intersection while the traffic signal is red for its direction of travel.

This video frame shows the Toyota Camry as it completes its left turn after the last southbound vehicle has cleared the intersection.

This warning is provided while no similar warning has been provided by official entities that have installed LED signals. This happening is unlikely to be an isolated event but is likely to repeat itself over the lifetime of such signals in winter conditions.

Disturbing Fire & Deaths in Crash on Hwy 427 In Toronto

The lack of useful news regarding the death of two occupants in a fiery collision on Saturday evening, November 14, 2020,  should be disturbing to anyone concerned about public safety. Yet this comes on, November 15th, that is internationally marked as a day of remembrance of those who have died in motor vehicle collisions.

The scant information coming from official news media indicated that a single vehicle “crashed into a guardrail and caught fire” on Highway 427 near Highway 409 near Toronto, Ontario. One of the news agencies claimed that the driver of the vehicle fled the scene and was still at large.

Several photos of the vehicle were shown by news agencies but these cannot be shown here due to copyright laws. These photos were taken in night-time conditions and therefore the details of the damage are difficult to decipher. They seem to suggest that there was a massive amount of frontal crush across the complete front end of the vehicle. This should be contradictory to the news that the vehicle struck a guardrail since such crush should not exist from striking a rail. Also, a fire should not be expected from an impact with a guardrail. Furthermore, if there was extreme crush at the vehicle’s front end it would seem suspect that a driver could have fled the scene without significant injury.

This demonstrates, once again, how the public is provided with very limited information about such deaths. Because they are infrequent, and because there is so much extraneous information battering the public’s psyche, the importance of this incidence is quickly extinguished, much quicker than the fire itself. In some future occasion someone else will meet a similar fate without any concern whether the death could have been prevented or whether some kind of malfunction occurred that could have been corrected before the tragedy occurred.

Vehicle fires, in particular, should be of high concern because they defeat all the safety systems engineered into vehicles and roadways. When a person is trapped in a vehicle that has caught fire there are limited options available to save that person. So it is highly important to determine how and why a fire was started and what can be done to prevent that fire in a future collision. It can be seen from the scant reporting, and from the lack of important questions being put to police and fire officials, that the lack of information is a disturbing, recurring problem.

In this vehicle fire that commenced on Highway 401 near London, Ontario on September 24, 2020, there was little concern as no one was injured. Many such incidents receive no public interest or concern even though a death is only avoided by luck alone.

 

Expressway Rear-End Impacts Need Better Evaluations

Most social media posts found it amusing that a load of beer from a rear-ending truck was spilt onto Highway 3 at EC Row Expressway in Windsor on November 5, 2020. If only such attention was focused on why and how such serious impacts occur.

In a December 16, 2018 article posted to the Gorski Consulting website the results of observations of tail-gating vehicles on Highway 401 were shown from videotaping sessions at four different sites. Without funding or additional help it was not possible to analyse the full two hours of data from each site. Instead, only 15 minutes was analysed from each site. A summary of those results was provided in the following text taken from that article:

“Although the numbers are small they suggest that the most common combination of one vehicle following less than 2 seconds behind another is where a non-truck is being followed by another non-truck. The least common is where a heavy truck is following a non-truck. These results may be surprising considering the comments made by various drivers of passenger cars and light trucks claiming that aggressive truck drivers attempt to drive them off the road by their close tail-gating. These preliminary data may suggest that it is more common that the drivers of passenger cars and light trucks and van are the ones who do more tail-gating than the drivers of heavy trucks. However the small numbers of observations in this study make these judgments non-conclusive. Exploration of the full 2 hours of videotape from each session might help to solidify what is the actual case.”

This work is obviously incomplete and a full analysis would be helpful. Such base data would help those in the general public who have essentially no information about how and why rear-end collisions occur but feel the need to express their opinions, often due to their wish to change the course of these events. It is encouraging to note that some persons are interested enough to make their comments. However they also need solid, objective evidence to use in their commentary.

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