With the impetus to increase cycling volumes throughout the world, the City of London Ontario has embarked on a variety of cycling infrastructure projects in recent years. In this haste the issue of cyclist safety has not been given equal importance. While building of cycling infrastructure would seem to align with increased cyclist safety, little has been done to actually conduct reliable research to understand where cyclist safety was, and where it is going. In the past a number of cycling safety concerns existed in the City that were not readily apparent.
Not only was cycling safety a concern ten years ago, but the general quality of the maintenance of the City’s transportation system was in question. Obvious dangers that ought to have been observed if roads inspectors were actually conducting inspections, did not appear to be noticed and existed for extended periods.
Scant information is available to assess whether there has been any meaningful progress regarding cyclist safety over the past 10 years. In this article Gorski Consulting looks back ten years, to the year 2012, to see what activities, opinions and conclusions were drawn about cycling progress in the City.
Cycling Issues in the Year 2012 in London Ontario
Massive snow storms were in the minds of most Londoners in January of 2012. In particular a multi-fatal collision occurred on Hwy 402 during a white-out.
With respect to cycling, there was not much news being delivered in the London area, However there were concerns expressed in other areas of the province. There was already some concern expressed in the previous year (2011) with respect to increasing cyclist collisions.
A Sarnia Observer article published in August of 2011 had reported the unspecified perception that cyclist collisions were becoming more common. Sarnia police blamed the problem on both cyclists and drivers not following the rules of the road. The article also referenced an Ontario Medical Association (OMA) report that 2,000 cyclists were injured in bicycle-vehicle collisions every year. The OMA report, entitled “Enhancing Cycling Safety in Ontario” provided a number of recommendations to Ontario’s provincial government.
Shortly afterward, in the fall of 2011, Ontario’s Coroner’s Office revealed that it would be reviewing cyclist deaths in the five year period of 2006 to 2010.
In the Kitchener/Waterloo region the cause of most cyclist collisions was blamed on cyclists. In a September, 2011 article published by the Kitchener Record newspaper it was reported that “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”.
In another Kitchener Record article (publishing date date unknown but likely early 2012), data about cyclist collisions for the year 2011 were summarized. Some of the comments noted in the article are noted below:
“…the number of cyclists hit by vehicles on regional roads, or at intersections with traffic lights, dropped to 104 in 2011, down from 142 in 2010”
“The single-biggest cause of collisions was cyclists riding off the sidewalk and into a crosswalk at an intersection.”
“Between 2006 and 2010, vehicles and cyclists collided 616 times on regional roads or at intersections with traffic lights. Cyclists are at fault in 73 per cent of those accidents”
The big drop in cycling collisions that occurred in 2011 happened before the region launched its cycling safety initiative. The 104 collisions in 2011 marked the lowest number in 2007-2011 period.
“We are glad to see it happen, but I can’t explain why it happened,” Bob Henderson, the region’s manager of transportation engineering, said.
In January, 2012 London City Police continued to focus the public’s attention on the most-accident-prone intersections in the City. By presenting data on the number of reported accidents in 10 of the City’s intersections it suggested that these intersections were the most dangerous. This failed to clarify that these intersections also contained the highest traffic volumes and thus the higher numbers of collisions was likely related to the higher number of vehicles potentially exposed to collisions. Such weak analysis led to the public’s misunderstanding of their relative safety. No data was presented on cyclist collisions or at what locations cyclists could be exposed to the greatest dangers.
In January of 2012, the Liberal government Minister of Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, wrote a letter to a North Bay newspaper about Ontario’s road safety record that roused considerable interest and criticism. In part the letter noted that in 1996 the Harris Conservative government give road maintenance responsibilities to private, third-party contractors. These comments were interpreted by some as blaming the past government for the road safety problems of the current time. While such political ping-pong continued there was no independent and unbiased report that could explain to the public what actually occurred and what was affecting their safety.
No information was made available regarding the occurrence of any significant cyclist collisions in the London region.
February, 2012 involved one of the worse road traffic fatalities in Ontario history when eleven persons were killed in a collision in Hampstead, north of Shakespeare, Ontario. A truck had struck a van occupied by farm workers at Perth Road 107 and Line 47 and most of the van occupants died.
In February there was discussion regarding a new head-impact sensing device that could help in diagnosing whether a force was sufficient to cause a brain injury. A London-based company was marketing the device that could be attached to a helmet. When an impact occurred the device would light up red lights that would signal the severity of the head impact. The device was given mixed reviews as some local medical experts were concerned that the device could not replace examinations by medical professionals needed to determine whether an actual significant head injury occurred. No further information was made available in the past 10 years to determine whether such a device could be helpful for cyclist head injuries.
No information was made available regarding the occurrence of any significant cyclist collisions in the London region.
In March, 2012, the public’s attention was drawn, once again, to the suggestion that certain intersections in the City of London were more dangerous because these contained higher numbers of reported collisions. Once again, nothing was mentioned that the noted intersections contained higher traffic volumes. An article by the London Free Press entitled “Hit Parade” noted the data as “One of the best barometers” of the city’s “annual list of its most dangerous intersections”. Once again, the City’s public was misdirected to believe that they were in greater danger when passing through these intersections. Nothing was mentioned with respect to which locations in the city were more dangerous to cyclists.
A new study was released on March 22, 2012, authored by the Ontario Injury Prevention Centre. This centre was reportedly a part of Public Health Ontario. The report drew on Ontario Ministry of Health data in the two years of 2007 through 2009. The study examined hospitalization rates and visits to the hospital emergency rooms in each of Ontario’s health unit districts. The study noted that, with respect to motor vehicle collisions the hospitalizations rate per 100,000 residents was 31.6 for the whole of Ontario whereas the rate for London was 39. With respect to visits to emergency departments the Ontario rate was 510, whereas the rate for London was 589. With respect to cycling the report indicated that hospitalization rates for Ontario were 9.5 whereas for London they were12. And for emergency department visits the Ontario rate was 186.4 while the London rate was 240.6. One of the authors of the report, Janye Morrish, did not have an explanation for the higher London rates, but she was quoted by the London Free Press as saying “It points to something that Middlesex and London should start to look at more. That is the whole point of this report”. The report was provided to all the health units in Ontario. Morrish indicated “They have an injury-prevention program and they can now start to look at where they may be lacking in certain areas and where they may need to catch up”. These comments were made over 10 years ago. The question remains: Did the London’s local health unit, or any other entity, conduct any inquiries as to why these data were higher for the London area?
No information was made available with respect to how many cyclist collisions occurred in London in March of 2012.
During April the annual CAA Worst Roads Campaign was reported by most news media. This propaganda was based on citizen reports to CAA about what they considered to be the worst road, based on their experience. Upon gathering all the citizen complaints the roadway which received the most complaints was judged to be the worst road in Ontario. This campaign was poorly conceived, much like the propaganda related to the worst intersections of previous months. The public was deceived into believing that complaints from the public could be accurate in determining road conditions and what was safe or unsafe. No public entity, whether political, transportation officials, police or news media was willing to bring these deceptions to the public’s attention.
The only incident remotely related to cycling in April of 2012 was with respect to a fatal, single-vehicle, collision that occurred when police erected road blocks near Flamborough, Ontario for the annual cycling Good Friday Road Race. A vehicle reportedly ignored police efforts to stop and the female driver drove through the intersection of Concession 5 West and Middletown Road. After passing through the intersection at high speed her vehicle left the roadway and struck a group of trees. No explanation was provided as to why such a driver would do what they did.
No mention was made in the London region of any cycling-related issues during this month.
On Saturday, May 5, 2012 a female cyclist was attempting to cross Huron Street near Homer Watson Boulevard overpass when she was struck by an eastbound motor vehicle. She sustained life-threatening injuries. She was not wearing a helmet. No further information became available about her eventual outcome.
On May 6, 2012 a fatal cyclist collision occurred on Herrgott Road in Wellesley Township in the Region of Waterloo. An avid cyclist, Barrie Conrod, was struck from behind by a Lincoln SUV. Although Conrod was wearing a helmet he reportedly sustained major head injuries. Damage to the SUV included a crumpled hood and a fractured windshield. Such damage suggests a substantial overlap of the vehicles and does not match a scenario where the cyclist was clipped by a glancing blow. Unfortunately no further details were provided and therefore the public was not informed sufficiently to learn from this tragedy.
In an article about this collision reported by the Kitchener Record, the reporter noted the following:
“Later this month, the coroner’s office is expected to release recommendations to prevent future deaths following its province-wide review of about 125 cycling deaths from 2006 to 2010.
A similar coroner’s review of 38 cycling deaths in Toronto over an 11-year period was completed in 1998. That review led to a number of recommendations that were never implemented, such as amending the Highway Traffic Act to address the specific needs of cyclists and making it mandatory for all large trucks to be fitted with side guards to protect cyclists from being trapped under a truck’s undercarriage.“
In another fatal collision on Wednesday morning, May 30, 2012, an 87-year-old male was struck on his bicycle while riding westbound on Glendon Drive near Mt. Brydges. The driver of the pick-up truck was charged with using a handheld device. After striking the cyclist the pick-up truck crossed the road and struck an on-coming SUV.
Other than the fatal collision near Mt. Brydges there was no information about how many cyclist collisions occurred in London in May of 2012.
In early June, 2012, a Bike Forum was arranged in Sarnia Ontario to discuss a variety of issues related to cycling in the city. A petition, signed by 6,000 persons, organized by the Bluewater Trails organization resulted in the city creating a number of signs to be posted throughout Sarnia to help designate roads with cycling infrastructure. Bluewater Trails representatives confirmed that signage was not their ultimate goal and that on-road bike lanes, separate bike lanes, bike trails and off-road multi-use paths were their primary goals.
The meeting was also attended by Sarnia Police who provided statistics on the city’s cycling collisions. Police reported that there were 45 collisions involving cyclists between January, 2011 and May, 2012. Twenty-seven of these resulted in injuries. Police noted that in 36 of the 45 collisions cyclists were found to be at fault while only five were the fault of drivers. The Sarnia police representative, Sargent Carson Wilson stated “So obviously, overwhelmingly, these collisions are directly related to the actions of the cyclists. I see what goes on and it drives me nuts”. Wilson was a strong believer that cyclists should not be riding on a sidewalk, claiming that “You are much safer on the roadway”.
Meanwhile the Ontario Coroner’s report into cyclist fatal collisions between the years 2006 and 2010 was released on June 18, 2012. In an article published by the Kitchener Record newspaper the report found that in 35 of the 129 cycling deaths the cyclists were wearing their helmets. It also found that 86 per cent of the cyclists were males. The report suggested making helmet use mandatory for all cyclists. It also recommended the installation of side-guards on truck trailers “to prevent cyclists from being pulled under the vehicle”. The Ontario Transportation Minister at the time, Bob Chiarelli confirmed that he agreed with the coroner’s recommendations and stated “We will assess those recommendations in a timely manner while also considering timelines and budgets”.
Trailer side-guards were the issue that might have prevented the fatal consequences to Jenna Morrison who reportedly died in November, 2011, when a truck making a right turn struck her at the intersection of Sterling Road and Dundas Street West in Toronto. The Kitchener Record newspaper indicated that the Ontario Trucking Association was against trailer side-guards because “relatively few heavy trucks traverse the downtown streets popular with cyclists”.
There was no mention of any significant collisions involving cyclists in the London area in June.
In a collision on July 4, 2012 three cyclists were struck by a pick-up truck on South Pelham Road in Welland, Ontario. One of the cyclists, a female, sustained critical level injuries. No further information was available about the outcome of this collision.
No mention was made in the London region of any cycling-related issues during this month.
An article published by the London Free Press on August 1, 2012 discussed the issue that the new phenomenon of e-bikes had found a crack through legislation. It referred to the fact that e-bikes were defined in the Canadian Criminal Code as motor vehicles yet provincial legislation in the Highway Traffic Act defined them as bicycles because they had pedals like regular cycles. The crack in the legislation referred to the possibility that those who were denied from driving a motor vehicle could ride an e-bike. Various lawyers and London police offered their opinions on the issue as well as local residents.
On August 6, 2012 it was reported that a cyclist sustained fatal injuries after his bicycle tire became jammed in a streetcar track on Wychwood Ave in Toronto. He was not wearing a helmet. No further information was available about the incident.
It was also reported that in early August a male cyclist was riding in the bike lane on Ira Needles Boulevard near Thorndale Drive in Kitchener-Waterloo when he was struck from behind by a passing car. The cyclist’s wife claimed that his bicycle helmet had numerous cracks from the impact and that he had no recollection of the impact. The wife indicated that if her husband had not been wearing a helmet he would have died.
In August of 2012 Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General for the Province of Ontario released a book describing the fatal collision in which his vehicle struck a cyclist in downtown Toronto in 2009. There was no independent collision reconstruction to assess the claims of how the incident unfolded. While initially charged, all charges were dropped in May of 2010. The internet was full of skeptics who believed Bryant got preferential treatment but without a detailed and independent analysis, no one could possibly know what actually happened.
In London, on August 21, 2012, a collision occurred on King Street just east of Maitland involving a male cyclist and a passenger van. The driver of the van claimed that the male cyclist veered from the south side of the street toward the north and the van struck him with its front end. He was not wearing a helmet. Again there was no independent assessment made available to the public that might clarify what actually occurred.
In an August 22, 2012 article published by the London Free Press some statistics were presented regarding cycling collisions in the city in the year 2012. Up to August 1, 2012 there were 100 cyclist collisions reported, 92 of these involved injuries to cyclists. This was noted to be a very large increase compared to 2011 where only 75 cyclist collisions were reported with 72 injuries. The article indicated that there had been only one fatal collision in London in the past three years and that occurred in 2011. While an increase of collisions would appear to be important to the untrained eye, there was no information about the range of fluctuation cyclist collisions from year to year.
The London Free Press article mentioned the comments of several London cyclists. One, Dave Mitchell, was concerned about “Conditions at the side of the road are the most consistent concern, with loose gravel from construction, pot holes and debris. Mitchell was also concerned about drivers using their cellphones, “especially those turning right at intersections”. But Mitchell also noted that cyclists were also partially to blame: “I can’t believe that there are actually regular occurrence of near head-on collisions because of people thinking they own the streets on their bikes”.
Another respondent in the London Free Press article was Maya Nikolovski who complained that there was not enough room for cyclists on roads such as Wharncliffe Road. She noted: “You’re going downhill and you can’t go on the sidewalk because it’s illegal and there’s only one lane. People will simply cut you off in that one lane because they’re not looking or they don’t care”.
Comments were also published in the London Free Press article from Sgt Ryan Scrivens, of the London Police Traffic Management Unit: “The laws are pretty clear that they’re required to follow the rules of the road. They do have to be on the roadways, not on the sidewalks, and they should have a bike in good working order, which includes a horn and a light affixed”. Scrivens confirmed that cyclists over the age of 18 were not required to wear a helmet and that more than 90% of all cyclist collisions result in injury to the cyclists.
The London Free Press article also triggered responses from the general public. Some are reproduced below:
- Drew Smith Report Comment
- August 23rd 2012, 6:51am
- To start I do not see every bicyclist on the road but I have yet to see one adult bicyclist stop at a light or stop sign this year. 2 days ago I watched one cyclist going the wrong way on King, very fast, go through a red light making at least one car slam their brakes on and veer. The kids are much better cyclists, there are SOME adult cyclists that just dont give a @#$$. Until they either get hurt or get a ticket how else will they learn. Will they learn? I will agree with others the roads are narrow on some streets and there are bad drivers but the cyclists I have seen are solely responsible for their actions and should know better.
- Barry Weston Report Comment
- August 22nd 2012, 10:56pm
- The city really needs to implement more bike lanes. I follow as many rules as possible, but if any one thinks I am going to ride down Oxford St, or Wharncliffe Rd for example with my 2 yr old in his trailer behind me is crazy. I will stick to the side walk thanks. I move over and slow down for walkers, so I am causing no problems there and I am ensure my son and I are safe from some of London’s finest drivers.
- Brian Thompson Report Comment
- August 22nd 2012, 10:19pm
- I like many many people, have had close calls with cyclists, they think they don’t have to wait for red lights, signal or follow any of the road rules. Stand at any intersection and it won’t be long before you see a person on a bike ride across an intersection against a red light or make a left or right hand turn without a signal of any kind. I’ve had a guy up on the hood of my van because he didn’t stop for a sign, then Lie to me and tried to say he stopped. The police need to start issuing tickets period! I sure the hell get one in my vehicle if I don’t follow the rules of the road. I’d kinda like to know how many tickets are issued to cyclists. I bet it’s a real low number. Cyclists do not own the roads, many many think they do!!
- Tim Bugler Report Comment
- August 22nd 2012, 9:50pm
- Cyclists need to be hyper vigilant and can never assume that cars see them. I’m a cyclist and do about a 25km round trip commute everyday. And every day I see motorists blowing through cautions and reds, driving well above the speed limit and having cars pass within inches of me is common place. I also see cyclists passing cars on the right (even in turn lanes when the cyclist isn’t turning), running red lights and stop signs when other vehicles clearly have right of way, veering across lanes of traffic without looking and hoping on and off of sidewalks. Basically my point is that stupidity resides on both sides and people in general need to smarten up. It might also help if police actually charged cyclists and drivers for infractions.
In an article published by the Kitchener Record newspaper on August 25, 2012 the focus was placed on the reactions and opinions of Kitchener councillor Yvonne Fernandes to the Coroner’s Report on cyclist deaths that was released a couple of months earlier. In her opinion Kitchener’s council should support the recommendations of the Coroner’s Report and the recommendation that a provincewide cycling plan be developed to lead funding and development of cycling infrastructure. She believed the city should adopt a “complete-streets policy” for new roads that would take into account the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. She was not in favour of the implementation of a mandatory helmet-use law. She believed a more important recommendation was the enactment of a law requiring drivers to give a one-metre distance when passing cyclists.
Opinions were also published from Josh Joseph, the city’s head of sustainable transportation. He emphasized the comment made in the Coroner’s Report that all the 129 cyclist fatalities studied in the report were preventable. Such a comment suggested that nothing was needed to improve cycling infrastructure as the fault lay the humans who drove motor vehicles and rode bicycles. This is a common theme amongst many in the general population to blame humans for injuries and deaths and that the simply solution is to prevent humans from making mistakes.
Members of the Kitchener cycling advisory committee were also quoted in the Kitchener Record article. Peter Debes thought the response to the Coroner’s Report had grinded to a halt. In his view the most important legislation would be requiring drivers to give cyclists a 1-metre lateral gap when passing.
Another member of the cycling committee, Michael Boos, was not in favour of a proposed, mandatory helmet law. He believed better cycling infrastructure and better education would have a greater effect.
A few days after the initial article the Kitchener Record published a subsequent article informing the public that Kitchener was the first municipality in Ontario to endorse the Coroner’s Report. The low impact of the report could be judged by the comments of Dr. Dan Cass, deputy corner for investigations, who commented: “I am not aware of any other municipality that has come forward and taken the lead. This is real-tangible progress and a municipality that’s making a commitment to move forward”.
Shortly after the comments published in the two Kitchener Record articles a collision occurred on the evening of August 28, 2012. Police reaction was that it was a “miracle that a young boy was not seriously injured. The boy’s mother was riding a bicycle on Linda Drive in Hespeler and the boy was riding in a carrier attached to the back of the bicycle. As the mother made a right turn onto Milton Ave a pick-up truck also made a right turn striking her bicycle. The carrier with the boy inside ended up crushed underneath the pick-up truck. The boy only suffered minor injuries. The male driver of the pick-up truck was charged with careless driving.
Nothing related to the Coroner’s Report was published or reported in the London area in August of 2012. With respect to the collision on King Street in London on August 21, 2012 it was only reported that the tragedy occurred. But no details were provided as to how it occurred or what actions by either the van driver or the cyclist could have prevented the collision.
In an article published on September 11, 2012, written by Ian Gillespie for the London Free Press (“Cyclists break law for (their) safety”), the topic of discussion was the fact that cyclists were riding on the sidewalks of London Ontario, against the law. The article referenced an Ontario Medical Association (OMA) report from 2011 entitled “Enhancing Cycling Safety in Ontario” wherein it was noted that “The report notes there were 26,300 emergency deportment visits and 1,374 hospitalizations for cycling injuries in Ontario in 2009 and that ‘the majority of cycling emergency department visits are for children and youth'”.
A report prepared by London City staff proposed that an amendment be made to the current law such that cyclists under the age of 14 should be allowed to ride on city sidewalks. The Gillespie article quoted city councillor Joni Baechler stating she has ridden her bicycle on a sidewalk. And an 80-year-old cyclist, Dirk Bergsma stated “We love cycling, but sometimes it’s scary to go on the road, so we go on the sidewalk”. Bergsma’s wife, Annamarie, also noted “It’s a difficult issue, we love to obey the law in every respect, but sometimes common sense tells you something different”. In their view the sidewalk is the safest place when riding along London roads like Wellington, Wharncliffe, Adelaide and Southdale.
In September, 2012, a male driver pleaded guilty to careless driving as a result of a collision that killed a cyclist on University Ave in Waterloo in September of 2010. The prosecutor in the case, Ralph Cotter, indicated that for “reasons unknown” the car struck the cyclist who was travelling in the same direction. The cyclist was not wearing a helmet.
On September 25, 2012 Jim Kenzie’s article entitled “Carte Blanche: This Toronto road is a cyclist death trap” was published by the Toronto Star newspaper. The focus of the article was the dangerous condition of Pottery Road between Broadview Ave and the Bayview extension. This road travelled along the edge of an escarpment. It was steep and winding. Kenzie’s point was that a painted cycling lane along the downhill side of the road did not separate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic. The article produced a very large number of comments from the public. Most comments focused on negative views of each individual’s strongly expressed beliefs. These views showed the diversity of opinions that exist in the community.
On September 26, 2012 a fatal collision occurred on Barton Rd in Hamilton Ontario involving a female cyclist who had dismounted and was stopped on the curb. A dump truck was passing her location. The truck was hauling a trailer with a long hitch bar. As the truck passed police reported that the female stepped into the street between the truck and the trailer and was run over. The collision occurred at 0540 hours therefore it would be dark.
An interesting article was published on September 28, 2012 by the Woodstock Sentinel-Review newspaper and the discussions between representatives of local Oxford County municipalities and the County of Oxford within which the municipalities reside. Ingersoll’s mayor, Ted Comiskey wanted to know what the County of Oxford was planning toward developing new cycling infrastructure. New construction on one of the County’s roads (County Rd 28) was used as an example where bike lanes could be added. The county’s director of public works, Robert Walton, explained that there were many difficulties and costs with adding a cycling lane along the noted road:
“The road would need to be totally reconstructed for this to happen. The platform and everything is not in place for that. The shoulders on most of this road are quite narrow. They’re two to three feet at most and the platform itself in only 7 metres wide, which does not allow for the extra width that we have been doing on the latest of the high volume roads”.
High costs were also noted as a deterrent.
“We will actually be bringing quite shortly our cycling chapter of the national transportation plan back to council for approval,” he said. “It could be October 10 that we bring that report to council and I think you’ll see a lot of your questions answered there. I hope you’ll enjoy the vision. The reason we pulled the cycling chapter from the transportation master plan at the time it was passed about three years ago was that quite personally I wasn’t happy with it at all. What it did was throw a lot of provincial standards out there. It gave no vision for what Oxford County was going to do. The vision wouldn’t be there if we just adopted what the provincial standards are. There wouldn’t be anything anywhere and that’s no good, so we said let’s come with an Oxford solution.”
Such comments focus on the fact that many of the provincial responsibilities for road design, maintenance and safety were dumped onto municipal laps within the enactment of the Municipal Act. In some circles the allowance given to local municipalities to do as they wished was appreciated as provincial standards could be viewed a draconian to local municipalities. Yet provincial control made it possible to standardize transportation systems so that they did not change from one municipal area to the next. While in provincial control the prioritization of what improvements were made in municipal infrastructure was well-controlled based on objective procedures. When these controls were removed municipalities could determine for themselves what would be repaired or improved, sometimes regardless of well thought out policy.
No information was available with respect to how many cyclist collisions occurred in London in the month of September, 2012.
A research study authored by Dr. Navindra Persaud of the University of Toronto demonstrated that cyclists who ride without a helmet are three times more likely to die from a head injury than those who wear helmets. This study was reported in an October 15, 2012 article written by Wendy Gillis, a reporter with Toronto Star newspaper. The study used the data taken from the 129 fatal cyclists studied in the Ontario Coroner’s Report that was released earlier in 2012. At the time of writing the Ontario government made it mandatory for cyclists under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Persaud’s study noted that 88 per cent of those who died in their study were older than 18 thus this was a gap in public policy.
Others were not convinced that helmet use over 18 years should be mandatory. Jared Kolb, who was Director of Campaigns and Membership at Cycle Toronto indicated that he supported the helmet law for those riders under the age of 18 but was against the law for those over 18. The article indicated that Kolb believed “The problem with mandatory helmet laws is that they can discourage people from riding altogether”. A further explanation of that belief was not provided. Kolb believed that the focus should be on improving cycling infrastructure. Dr. Persaud commented that “Even if we had a perfect infrastructure, there are still going to be collisions and falls, and that’s why helmets would be useful”.
On October 16, 2012 a fatal cyclist collision was reported near Orangeville, Ontario. A male cyclist, riding with dark clothing and riding with no rear light, was struck from behind by a pick-up truck.
In a Kitchener Record newspaper article of October 26, 2012, the legal proceedings were described with respect to the fatal cyclist collision involving Barrie Conrod, that occurred on May 6, 2012 on Herrgott Road in the Region of Waterloo. Further details about the collision were revealed. There was uncertainty about why the collision occurred. The driver of the impacting pick-up truck, Dale Wideman, admitted in court that he may have fallen asleep and that he did not see Conrod until it was too late. Yet in an interview a few days after the collision he indicated to police that “he doesn’t really know what happened because he can’t remember falling asleep or feeling drowsy”. Police reported that the impact occurred on or near a white line painted at the right edge of the roadway lane.
In an upbeat article published by the Sarnia Observer newspaper, on October 28 ,2012, the focus was on a retired executive who moved to Sarnia from Toronto and began to ride a bicycle – something he had not done in 40 years. He took a three-day course on cycling. This taught him the rules of the road. He stated: “The biggest piece of news for me from the course is that I have every right that an automobile has”. He also learned he’s supposed to ‘take the lane’ when there isn’t enough space on the side of the road. This advice was given by the teacher of the course, Dick Felton, of Bluewater Trails. Felton noted: “I think they were all shocked it wasn’t the scary experience they had anticipated”. The course was created from a grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Further funding was provided by the City of Sarnia to hire a Co-Ordinator to “get the program rolling”.
In an article published on November 20, 2012, by the Sarnia Observer newspaper, a fatal cyclist collision was described which occurred on LaSalle Road. The cyclist and motor vehicle were both travelling west on LaSalle but few details were provided by investigating police. Even an article describing the sentencing in July of 2014 provided no information about the details of the collision. The only useful information in the article is that it described what other cyclist collisions had recently occurred in the Sarnia area, as noted below:
“Other notable cycling collisions:
July 16, 2012 – a 28-year-old Sarnia cyclist was taken to hospital after colliding with a car in the city’s south end.
Aug. 21, 2012 – Police arrested a 39-year-old Sarnia man after a cyclist was struck by a vehicle on Exmouth Street. The driver fled but witnesses followed him to a Point Edward address.
Sept. 15, 2012 – A five-year-old boy suffered minor injuries after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle on Cardiff Drive in Sarnia. Police say the boy’s helmet prevented more serious injury.
Oct. 3, 2012 – Sarnia police investigate following collision involving an e-bike and a car. The 34-year-old male e-bike driver was uninjured, while the other driver left the scene.
Oct. 6, 2012 – A 16-year-old cyclist collides with a vehicle just on East Street. The cyclist was treated for minor injuries and given a ticket for not wearing a helmet.“
No information was made available as to how many cyclists collisions occurred in London in October, 2012.
In November of 2012 the public’s attention was focused once again to the fatal collision involving cyclist Barrie Conrod which occurred on May 6, 2012. Articles published by the Kitchener Record newspaper on November 22, 2012 described that the driver of the striking vehicle, Dale Wideman, was fined $1,000, placed on probation for one year and was ordered to do 10 hours of community service. The prosecutor, David Foulds focused on the unsubstantiated evidence that Wideman may have fallen asleep before the impact, a suggestion that should have been denied based on Wideman’s interview a few days after the collision in which he claimed he did not actually know what happened. Evidence indicated that Wideman was not speeding nor was there any evidence to suggest he was impaired. Evidence presented at trial demonstrated Wideman’s sincere remorse over what happened. Yet, what actually happened, with respect to objective, reliable evidence, was not explained.
No information was provided with respect to how many cyclist collisions occurred in London in November, 2012.
In December of 2012 London’s Civic Works Committee prepared a list of recommendations to be sent to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation with respect to cycling issues. As reported in a December 17, 2012 article by the London Free Press the following recommendations were made:
– All cyclists must wear helmets.
– Overtaking motorists give cyclists a one-metre berth.
– Motorists should be educated about cyclists and the driver’s handbook amended to deal with “share-the-road” rights of bicyclists.
– Laws be introduced to clarify how cyclists are to be treated at intersections, where most accidents occur.
– Provincial funding for infrastructure include money for bike lanes and highway crossings.
There was no information available about how many cyclist collisions occurred in London in December, 2012.
In review, what was occurring 10 years ago is similar to what is occurring now: a lack of information and a general secrecy about how and why cyclist collisions occur.
In general the public was misled, and continues to be misled, with respect to the condition of roads in London. As noted above the worst intersections and the worst roads continue to be advertised by local news media when there is little truth to those advisements. The yearly reporting of the 10 intersections with the most number of reported collisions does nothing to provide legitimate advice as those intersections contain the highest traffic volumes and thus the greatest exposures. That does not mean that they are less safe.
Similarly, the annual reporting of the “Worst Roads” in Ontario by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) misleads the public into believing that they are less safe on these roads. Perceptions by the untrained public do not create quality data on road safety yet this is the basis on which the CAA campaign designates its worst roads. In recent years the CAA has begun to use additional expert assistance confirm whether those public perceptions are reasonable and this may improve the process.
In the meantime, no evaluations have existed over the past 10 years with respect to guiding cyclists about which intersections and roads are most dangerous to them. A broad law that states that cyclists must ride on the road and not on a sidewalk is a dangerous act. It suggests to the less-knowledgeable cyclists that they are safe to ride on roads with high traffic volumes, large numbers of heavy vehicles and with narrower lanes. These are the circumstances in which cyclists are struck from behind and pay the maximum sacrifice.
As can be seen in the 2012 review, research studies into cycling collisions were performed by Ontario’s Coroner’s office and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). This resulted in broad statistics being released to the public about the character of fatal cyclist collisions and how many cyclists were treated at hospital emergency departments. While such reports may be meaningful to those deeply involved in their research they do little to impact the general cycling public who are the ones being injured. Much of the problem lies with the dryness of such numbers that remain separated from the real-life occurrences that are unpublicized and often kept from public knowledge. It is only when a fatal cyclist collision occurs that a minimal amount of publicity is provided about its circumstances. But the important causal factors that the public needs to know about are rarely revealed.
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) report of March, 2012 indicated that, with respect to cycling, hospitalization rates for Ontario were 9.5 per 100,000 residents whereas for London they were 12. And for emergency department visits the Ontario rate was 186.4 while the London rate was 240.6. There is no information whether the local health unit, that received this report, conducted any further inquiries as to why the hospitalizations and emergency department visits of cyclists was higher in the London area. It would seem prudent that such information would trigger further analysis that should have been passed on to the general public and particularly to the population of cyclists around London. To date there is no information whether these statistics were just an anomaly for the study period, whether the rates remained persistently higher through to current years and whether any important factors were uncovered that might inform the public.