No one knows what kind of injuries are occurring in cyclist, e-bike, skateboard and e-scooter crashes in Ontario. In fact, little data is available about the general characteristics of riders and their speeds.
A recent article from an injury study in Brisbane, Australia (“More than 600 people go to Brisbane emergency departments after e-scooter crashes”, ABC News) showed that 797 patients reported to 3 Brisbane hospitals over an 18 month period up to May, 2020, from injuries related to “electric personal mobility device” collisions which include e-bikes, e-skateboards, segways and hoverboards. Surely this is not just an Australia phenomenon. The difference is likely that, in Ontario, no one is reporting such injury information. And, historically, there has been little or no information about cycling injuries in Ontario.
As various municipalities in Ontario are promoting active transportation as part of their combating global climate change, there is a conflict of interest in reporting what injuries are occurring as these same municipalities are the defendants in civil suits launched against their inferior infrastructure. This does not promote public safety, it only promotes secrecy. There is little opportunity to force governments to be more transparent about the cause of transportation injuries. The only opportunity exists in collecting basic information about volumes of persons, and their characteristics, engaged in active transportation.
Recently Gorski Consulting has been conducting observational studies in London, Ontario focused on cyclists, pedestrians and all other non-motor vehicle traffic. This work has been completely independent of the City of London and the Province of Ontario. This data provides a gauge of what is happening in the City of London with respect to active transportation. Many one-hour sessions have been completed where user characteristics such as gender, approximate age, and the type of usage (cyclist, pedestrian, etc.) have been noted. In most of these studies the travel speeds have also been calculated. The speeds are particularly important as they relate to the relative safety of users.
As an example, four of the most recent studies have been conducted in June and July of 2021, focusing on cyclists along the Thames Valley Parkway in London. The studies were made at the following locations:
- TVP south of Trafalgar St in East London (2 sessions, 2 hours & 3 hours each).
- TVP west of Highbury Ave in East London (2 hours).
- TVP between Gibbons Park & Western University in West London (2 hours).
These studies, totaling nine hours of observation, have led to some interesting results.
On average, 37 cyclists were observed per hour during these sessions. E-bikes represented 4.5% of the cycling sample while 12.9% were riding road bikes.
Overall, 5.7 % of the cyclists were observed to be travelling at speeds over 30 km/h. But these numbers differed in terms of their location on the pathway. For example, at the site west of Highbury Ave, not a single rider was observed to be travelling over 30 km/h in the two hours of observations. At the site north of Gibbons Park, 6.0% were observed to be travelling at this excessive speed.
In contrast the site south of Trafalgar Street produced the highest numbers of high-speed cyclists. Overall the speeds appear to be inconspicuous at the Trafalgar site because it contains a significant slope such that the slow speed of cyclists travelling up the slope cancel out those riding travelling at high speed on the downslope. However, when focusing on those northbound riders who were travelling on the downslope, 10.8% of them were travelling at over 30 km/h in the first two-hour session, while 25% of northbound riders were observed to be travelling above 30 km/h during the 3-hour, second session. We have previously expressed concern about this location because the City of London had just completed construction of a small playground designed for small children near the bottom of the downslope and right next to the edge of the path where high speed cyclists are descending the downslope.
In the studies conducted by Gorski Consulting on portions of the Thames Valley Parkway that were level, all those cyclists who were observed travelling over 30 km/h were males and all but one were riding road bikes. The single rider of a pedal-assist, e-bike who was travelling over 30 km/h was also a male.
Substantial speeds of cyclists can be acceptable and desirable under limited conditions. Higher speeds can encourage riders to abandon their automobiles if they can reach their destination within a reasonable time. And if a cycling path is free of other traffic such as pedestrians, and particularly small children or the elderly, there is no compelling reason to prevent cyclists from travelling at or slightly above 30 km/h. Inappropriate infrastructure, and inappropriate actions/decisions by riders are key components in creating unsafe conditions. High speeds were generally observed in cyclists riding road bikes or riding pedal-assist, e-bikes.
In a CBC News article of July 24, 2021 (“Cyclists frustrated by speeding tickets handed out in High Park”) a number of Toronto cyclists complained that they were given speeding tickets from travelling above the posted speed limit of 20 km/h. The article noted that one couple was ticketed when travelling downhill on the west side of the park and each were handed a $125 ticket. While ensuring safety is important, ticketing riders for travelling above 20 km/h on a downgrade is highhanded. In a study on the Thames Valley Parkway south of Trafalgar Street conducted on June 2, 2021, the average speed of northbound riders on the downgrade was 21.4 km/h and this included observations of children travelling at slower speeds. When removing the data of those smaller children the average speed of adults rose to 22.4 km/h. When cycling infrastructure creates substantial down-grades cyclists will naturally travel faster. This has been proven in many studies conducted at Gorski Consulting. It is important to consider what features of the site will cause unsafe conditions along the downgrade of a cycling path and remove them. Without a proper documentation of instances where injuries have occurred it is not possible to evaluate what methods have been successful in improving cyclist and e-motorized-vehicle, rider safety.
Promotion of cycling, or similar modes of transportation, which reduces the usage of private automobiles is desirable, and perhaps essential, if the world is to reduce the effects of global climate change. The transition away from the private automobile will be particularly difficult in North America where the transportation network has been so heavily focused on personal, gas-powered automobiles. In this era of change it is important to collect detailed, unbiased data, particularly injury data, so that we can see what trends are developing and what adjustments need to be made before inflexible infrastructure is created that does not meet the needs of that change. Yet injury data remains a secrecy only allowed to be viewed by those carrying the credentials of a 007 secret spy.