News media have reported that shortly before 2320 hours on April 4th, 2022, the rider of an e-bike was struck by a hit-&-run motor vehicle in the area of Toro Road and Keele Street in Toronto, Ontario. The rider reportedly sustained life-threatening injuries. Understandably no information was provided about how the collision occurred because the investigation is in its early stages. However, as noted in almost all previous occasions, no information will ever be revealed including how the rider sustained his/her injuries.
Unfortunately this is the sign of the times and an indication of what is to come in the not too distant future. E-bikes or E-cycles are becoming more common. E-cyclists not only ride on city streets but also on sidewalks. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation has made it illegal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks because of the dangers they say exist including the fact that cyclist speeds are substantially higher than the walking speeds of pedestrians. Yet observations by Gorski Consulting indicate that at least 50 percent of cyclists continue to ride on sidewalks, regardless of the law. This suggests that, despite what the Ministry is saying, cycling on the sidewalk may be safer for cyclists than sharing a lane with motor vehicle traffic. But there is likely to be an added complication to this discussion.
Observations by Gorski Consulting indicate that those who ride e-cycles travel at substantially higher speeds than the average cyclist using pedal power. E-cycles are also substantially heavier, especially if they are also carrying cargo. This combination of higher speed and higher mass means that travelling on the sidewalk, or roadside, will present new safety challenges that few appreciate. If motorists found it difficult to react to a pedal-powered cyclist on the sidewalk travelling at 10 km/h, the problem will be exacerbated when an e-cyclist’s speed is 25 or 30 km/h. That higher speed and mass will also come into effect if collisions should occur with pedestrians, particularly the elderly or children.
There is a large impetus for various jurisdictions in North America to increase cycling volumes, partially due to climate change issues. Cycling groups are also highlighting the benefits of cycling versus motor vehicles. But little is being done to recognize that the environment in which cyclists will be travelling is not compatible, and that cyclist collisions, as poorly documented as they already are, will become more prevalent and more severe in the not too distant future.