The London Fire Department provided the above photo a a pick-up truck that rolled over following a collision with another vehicle at Richmond and York Streets in downtown London on August 4, 2021. It was reported that there were no injuries.
This is a good opportunity to make some safety comments about the common habits of creating high-centre-of-gravity vehicles. We have heard the most-obvious problem that taller pick-ups, SUVs and Vans cause visibility problems in front and behind them, thus endangering pedestrians, particularly children But there are other reasons why putting lifters on your suspension is a bad idea. In recent years, many light vehicles have been built with short wheelbases, smaller track widths and taller heights. This is a recipe for disaster in an intersection collision because such a vehicle invariably rolls over. But that is not always a disaster. In fact, a low speed rollover can be very benign if occupants remain within the protective cage of their vehicle and nothing intrudes into where they are seated. The deceleration during a rollover can be in the range of 0.4 to 0.6g. This rate is lower than many instances where a driver applies maximum braking on a dry asphalt road.
The problem with rollovers is that you just don’t know. Decades earlier with few people wearing seat-belts we used to refer to the injury outcomes from rollovers as “dice in a box”. You shake the box and let the dice fall but the outcome is let to chance. And sometimes the “snake eyes” result in your death. With the advent of seat-belt usage and rollover “curtain” airbags much has improved. but it is still a risky result.
What persons believe about high centres-of-gravity is that they are safer when they are riding higher up. To some degree this is true. In many severe head-on collisions it has been observed that the vehicle that rode over the front end of the other would likely contain occupants whose injuries were less severe. The structure of the taller vehicle would penetrate the softer upper structure of the lower vehicle often resulting in structural intrusion and major injury results. But there is also a drawback to the higher centre-of-gravity idea.
When your vehicle rises over top of another it becomes “propelled into the atmosphere”, or lifted up, sometimes when the post-impact velocity of your vehicle is still high. Now you have a problem. Your vehicle is now launched, even if slightly, into the air and it becomes the “dice in the box” idea all over again. Your vehicle may roll but it may not be a soft landing on level ground. Your vehicle may strike a pole, tree, barrier, ditch, another vehicle or so many other unforgiving things. And this contact will often occur with the soft roof structure of your vehicle, resulting in structural intrusion. Vehicle manufacturers do not like to spend money on less likely dangers and so they do not believe that you need to be well protected from large vertical forces to the roof of your vehicle. So any impact of moderate severity can produce substantial roof crush. The experts believe you should be protected from soft rollovers on level ground not from major impacts to the roof region by immovable objects.
And the obvious problem with higher centres-of-gravity is that your vehicle is more prone to loss-of-control in curves and as a result of road surface irregularities combined with low friction levels such as in snowy or icy conditions.
The photo presented at the beginning of this article should be reminder. Soft, low-speed rollovers are generally not a safety problem so long as you stay inside your safety cage and nothing comes into where you are seated. But there is that issue of the “dice in a box”. Sometimes you just never know.
So, do not lift your vehicle any more than what the manufacturer has already done. There are safety consequences that you may not recognize.
Results from several observational studies by Gorski Consulting show that there are far fewer females riding bicycles than males in London, Ontario. The results of three different studies are consistent with this conclusion. The studies involved the following:
- Observations of cyclists riding on or adjacent to a roadway in London between 2013 and 2020.
- Observations of cyclists riding on, or adjacent to Dundas Street between Highbury and Clarke.
- Observations of cyclists using the Thames Valley Parkway in London.
The results of these studies are summarized below.
Observations of Cyclists Riding on or Adjacent to a roadway in London Between 2013 and 2020.
In this study 1351 cyclists were observed riding throughout the City of London. In 66 of these observations the gender of the rider could not be identified. Of the remaining 1285 cyclists, 1091 were male and 194 were female. This results in a percentage of female riders of just 15.1%.
Observations of Cyclists Riding on, or Adjacent to, Dundas Street Between Highbury Ave & Clarke Road, 2018 to 2020, in East London.
This study, involving a small sample of 58 riders, was conducted along the four-lane arterial roadway of Dundas Street where there is no infrastructure to accommodate cyclists. This roadway also contains many heavy trucks and buses. It can be described as a road segment that is dangerous for cyclist use. Observations of cyclists were made between the years 2018 and 2020. In 8 instances the gender of the cyclist was unknown. In the remaining 50 observations there were 5 female and 45 male riders were observed, resulting in percentage of female observations of only 11.1%.
Observations of Cyclists Riding on London’s Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) in July, 2021
In four videotaping sessions comprising 9 hours of observations 333 cyclists were observed riding on the Thames Valley Parkway in London in July of 2021. Eighty (80) of these riders were females, while 253 were males. This results in a female rider percentage of 24.0%.
Combined Results of All Three Studies
When the observations of all three studies are combined this represents a total of 1742 observations. In 74 instances the rider’s gender was unknown. For the remaining 1668 observations where the gender was known there were 283 female riders and 1486 males. Thus the percentage of female riders was 17.0%.
These results show that, in London, Ontario, there is a low number of females who ride bicycles. We need to understand that our commitment to increase ridership of cycles is extremely important. Reduced carbon emissions go hand-in-hand with cycling by removing our society’s dependency on fossil fuels. And this is critically important in reducing the effects of climate change. Factors that prevent our society from engaging in active transportation need to be identified and understood. This cannot be done in the next decade or century. It needs to be done now. Since half the world’s population is comprised of females, their lack of participation in cycling can have a large effect on the success of our transition to more climate-friendly activities. While London, Ontario is a small fish in this large ocean, observations of cyclists in London may provide important clues about how we need to make adjustments to achieve our global goals.
The issues of rider safety and convenience often come up in discussion but there is insufficient, independent, public data that can be used to advance the discussion beyond subjective opinion. The possibility that safety and convenience could be factors in reduced cycling by females could be demonstrated through conducting studies such as those by Gorski Consulting. Although Gorski Consulting has never received any public funds we have been successful in producing some revealing studies.
The small number of female cyclists becomes even smaller when we examine riders during the winter months. Observations of cyclists were conducted during the winter months of December through March in the years 2013-20. This is a subset of the observations made above. A total of 291 observations were made. In 15 instances the gender of the cyclist could not be determined. For the remaining 274 observations where gender was known, 257 were male while only 19 were female, resulting in a percentage of female riders of 6.9%.
The possibility that safety is a concern is suggested by the small sample of cyclists observed on Dundas Street between Highbury Ave and Clarke Road. This four-lane arterial roadway contains no infrastructure for cyclist travel yet the segment’s traffic volume is approximately 22 to 28,000 AADT. Of those cyclists who were observed travelling straight along this road segment, 11 were observed to ride in the curb lane near the right curb. Alternatively 32 cyclists were observed to be riding on the sidewalk. Thus approximately 75% of the observed cyclists were seen riding on the sidewalk even though City bi-laws prohibit riders over the age of 18 from doing so. Concerns with safety are likely the reasons why cyclists would ride on the sidewalk even through they may be ticketed by London Police.
Thus concerns with safety and lack of convenience are likely factors that contribute to the lack of cycle ridership by females but more data needs to be assembled to provide better clarity on this issue.
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.
It is rare when we can compliment Ontario police forces in being transparent and useful toward educating the public on road safety. The OPP in Ontario have been an exception, at least with respect to providing photos of serious collisions in their jurisdictions. Most recently three photos were shared on the OPP Twitter account showing the results of a two-vehicle impact involving a BMW. While no other information was provided, the photos of the BMW enable us to comment on the very important issue of serious rear-end impacts occurring on Ontario’s 400-series expressways and higher-speed unban arterials.
The photo above shows the damage caused to the BMW and this side view is helpful in demonstrating the extent and location of the damage. Looking the distance between the two wheel hubs along with the lack of damage along the lower sill it is possible to detect that there was not a great deal of energy dissipation taking place at this lower level. In other words there is essentially no crush exhibited at this lower level. This would not occur in a typical collision with another light vehicle or barrier.
There is also evidence of damage and crush above the bumper, or what we say “at the grill level”. In discussing the severity of impacts and the “change-in-velocity” it has been historically important to understand that the bumper level is stiffer and the grill level is softer. So when reconstructionists need to estimate the severity of a collision they need to take this difference into consideration. Yet, while there is a lack of crush at the bumper level, the evidence of major deformation at the grill level is an important demonstration that such a condition is dangerous. The normal relationship between “change-in-velocity” and injury does not apply well in this scenario because of the structural intrusion into the occupant space that occurs.
The danger of structural intrusion has been known for decades. It is dangerous because neither seat-belts nor air bags can be fully-effective when the force of a collision is applied to the occupant and the ride-down that is normally afforded by seat-belts and air bags is minimized.
In the assessment of occupant injury it is important to know how much a vehicle slowed down during an impact but the time involved is also important. A vehicle that changes its velocity in 100 milli-seconds is more likely to result in injury than a vehicle that slows down in 300 milli-seconds. With a shorter crash pulse the accelerations (“decelerations”) must be higher, sometimes with dangerous spikes in acceleration (“deceleration). (Note that, technically, there is no such thing as deceleration, there is only positive or negative acceleration).
In studying the crashworthiness of a vehicle it is also important to establish the magnitude of crush, where it is located and how the shape of the vehicle has been changed from its original dimensions. Historically, researchers have believed that all that was important about vehicle damage is the magnitude of crush. No consideration had been taken into where the crush was located or how the shape of the vehicle was changed. That is a regrettable failure that continues to this day. This additional level of detail is difficult to obtain, time-consuming and therefore costly to achieve.
Attempting to determine where the crush is located and how the vehicle’s shape has been changed is difficult as shown in the photo below. Some of the resultant damage is caused by emergency personnel in their attempts to gain access to the injured and removing them to hospital. Was the hood removed by emergency personnel? Was the windshield peeled away to access the driver? Were the doors removed by them? Some of the answers are obvious while some are not.
Fortunately, new tools such as laser scanners can provide an accurate description of the crush and shape of a damaged vehicle. Yet investigators still do not understand how they might use this valuable tool for assessing vehicle crashworthiness. Event Data Recorders (“Black Boxes”) have also been helpful in filling in the details that were previously unavailable or difficult to retrieve with traditional methods or reconstruction.
However, the photo below shows the suspected danger of the incident. While the lower rocker panel below the doors appears undamaged, the dash and steering assembly do not appear to be in their original locations. In cases of structural intrusion much of the destruction comes from the actions of emergency personnel attempting to pry the occupant from the vehicle and so determining the extent of structural intrusion becomes problematic. The analysis still involves a detailed examination of the physical evidence by an experienced investigator who can recognize the difference and characteristics of evidence. Normally such experience is not obtained from attending two-week instruction courses but requires many years of continuous exposure to such evidence.
In all, the OPP have been helpful in providing the above three photos of the damaged BMW. This information helps to show how a serious rear-end impact of a truck causes minimal crush at the bumper level while causing major intrusion at the upper levels of a passenger car’s front end. For those who believe that they can speed and that the availability of modern technology will protect them, this is an example where modern technology is of lessened benefit. It demonstrates how important it is that all vehicles be equipped with reliable, automatic, emergency braking and that we need to deal with the age-old problem of bumper mis-match and under-ride and differences in vehicle heights that cause needless injuries and deaths.
When a clearly unexplainable happening is visible in an OPP photo, and the OPP do not provide an explanation, the public also has no idea of its relevance – and that is a genuine problem.
Medians contain a variety of barriers and energy attenuation devices to control the deceleration of vehicles that exit the highway from a loss-of-control scenario, an impact, or some other cause. The particular system shown in the above photo is typically set up in front of some dangerous and immovable object. The system is a set of barrels positioned in such a way that impact to the system will cause a vehicle to dissipate its kinetic energy in a controlled manner. Or said differently, the striking vehicle is slowed down gradually over time and distance. Typically the barrels are filled with some substance, like sand, at different levels of fillage. The barrels closest to the initial impact contain hardly any sand at all so they are very light and are easily damaged and displaced. But moving further to the back the barrels are filled with progressively more sand. So the barrel that sustains the initial impact, being almost empty, is destroyed and tossed aside, while causing very little change in the impacting vehicle’s speed. But as the vehicle encounters more barrels, which contain more and more sand, the slowing of the vehicle increases and the damage and deflection of the barrels is lessened. This is the way that the vehicle’s speed is reduced in a controlled manner. But look at the above photo, is there something wrong?
The struck barrel system is lying on a live lane Highway 410. Clearly that is not what it is supposed to look like after an impact. It is not supposed to slide, like an integrated unit, out into a travel lane. And the barrels are supposed to show evidence of their destruction because this is what they are designed to do. There are always unique circumstances that appear in photos and, if the OPP do what they are supposed to do, like clarify any misunderstandings, they should not post photos showing bazaar occurrences without an explanation because that just causes confusion.
So did the barrels actually swing out into the live lane of Highway 410 without performing as they should have? Why would the OPP show this photo and then not comment about the usual result? Is it because they themselves do not understand how these systems are supposed to function? That prospect is frightening.
A new playground has been completed next to the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) south of Trafalgar Street in London, Ontario. Concerns about a northbound downgrade on the path were previously expressed as high cyclist speeds were occurring on the approach to an underpass at Trafalgar Street where the design of the path caused safety issues. The problems have now been increased as a result of a new playground, designed for use by young toddlers, that was constructed adjacent to the path which will expose very young children to the high speed cyclists descending the downslope of the path.
Several previous articles were published on the Gorski Consulting website dealing with down-slope speeds on the Thames Valley Parkway south of Trafalgar Street and these are listed below:
“Speed of Recreational Cyclists on Down Grades”: October 8, 2018
“Speed of Recreational Cyclists on Down-Slope of Trafalgar Bike Path”: June 19, 2020
“Additional Safety Problems at Thames Valley Parkway Near Trafalgar Street”: June 16, 2021
“A Need to Recognize That Slopes Affect Recreational Cyclist Speed”: June 29, 2021
The location of concern is shown in the Google Maps view below. The construction of an overpass at the Canadian National Railway (CNR) line in 2018 caused the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) to be elevated and this elevation was reduced as northbound users of the TVP approached the bridge crossing Pottersburg Creek before descending further into an underpass of Trafalgar Street.
Previous testing and observations noted that northbound cyclists reached their maximum speed about 150 metres north of the CNR overpass. This area is shown below.
The south end of the Pottersburg Creek bridge is located at 295 metres north and the Trafalgar Street underpass is located 345 metres north of the CNR overpass.
The photo below is a view looking south along the TVP where the new playground was completed on July 1, 2021. Note how the TVP contains a relatively sharp curve as it passes the playground and that the playground itself is very close to the edge of the path with no barriers positioned between the two.
The photo below is a view looking south from approximately 150 metres, showing the CNR overpass in the distant background and the extent of the downgrade of the path approaching the camera.
The photo below is a view, looking north, from the 150 metre location, looking toward the new playground located in the background. Note there have been no warning signs posted adjacent to the path to warn users of the potential presence of small children at the playground.
The photo below is a view looking north on the TVP, closer to the new playground. Note that the path is relatively straight on approach to the playground but the path takes a substantial curve to the right adjacent to the playground.
The photo below shows the new playground and the extent of curvature in the path adjacent to it. The curve presents a challenge to northbound cyclists and other users as they are unable to detect whether children near the playground are located on the playground or have moved onto the path surface.
The extent of the potential safety problems at the site was challenging to evaluate as some degree of documentation of children at the playground would be required. Yet, creating video and photos of children typically raises concerns from parents and others who do not understand why these actions are taken. Thus it was not possible to position cameras close to the playground where optimum documentation could be obtained. However a single video camera was placed a substantial distance south of the playground and, by using the zoom function, a closer view of the area was obtained as shown in the photo below.
The positioning of several other video cameras to the south and north of the playground enabled the documentation of northbound cyclist speeds as they approached and exited the area of the playground.
Subsequent review of the video showed that two toddlers (shown in the photo below) were observed crossing the path on numerous occasions within a period of about 47 minutes. It was decided to focus on the actions of these children to determine how often they were exposed to the danger of high speed cyclists on the path. The subject children were of a young age but were typical of the age of children using the playground. For identification purposes they were assigned the labels “4-year-old” and “2-year-old” although their age was not known.
It was observed that two adult women were picnicking on the grass on the opposite (west) side of the path adjacent to the playground. The two toddlers were observed running back and forth from the picnicking women to the playground on a continuous basis. This sort of scenario could repeat itself in the future and demonstrates how parents may not comprehend that they could be exposing their children to danger.
A video session was conducted on July 4, 2021 for approximately 2 hours between 1710 and 1920 hours. During this time all users of the path were documented in terms of their sex, approximate age, whether they were pedestrians, riding cycles, or using some specialized transport device such as a skateboard or roller blades. This documentation occurred between the 125 and 295-metre locations along the path. The location of the new playground was approximately north of the 225 metre location and continued to slightly north of the 275 metre location.
With respect to northbound cyclists it was not possible to obtain a complete documentation of their travel because many of them did not complete the full distance of travel on the path between the 125 and 295-metre locations. Of the 21 northbound cyclists who were documented over the two-hour period only 14 of them completed their travel on the path within the 125-295-metre zone. Six of the 14 cyclists reached a maximum speed of over 40 km/h. This represents almost half of the observed, northbound cyclists.
Three of the 14 cyclists momentarily rode off the path, to the left, near the playground. The maximum speed of each of these 3 cyclists (Observations 3, 8 and 9) was over 40 km/h. It suggests this action was performed so that the 3 high-speed cyclists would be clear of the area where the small children were located. The descriptions and speeds of the 14 cyclists are shown in the table below.
The three fast-moving cyclists that exited the path near the playground had the three lowest speeds (16.08, 13.90 and 15.72 km/h respectively) as they passed the playground because their alternate route took them over a longer distance. Thus they were travelling faster than indicated. When those three cyclists are removed from the table this leaves only 11 remaining. Of those 11 remaining riders, 7 were travelling at over 25 km/h as they passed the playground. While one might not classify a speed of 25 km/h as high, it is never-the-less substantially higher than the average speed of a recreational cyclist travelling on a typical path which would be in the range of 16 to 18 km/h.
In the above table it can be noted that the average speed of northbound cyclists in the zone of 125-150 metres was about 38.7 km/h. In comparison, observations of similar cyclists on June 2, 2020 showed the average speed of 12 northbound cyclists was 39.93 km/h between the 150-175 metre location. Thus the speeds are similar.
An example of the danger to the toddlers is shown in the two photos below which are frames taken from the video. These views show the 2-year-old crossing the path while two northbound cyclists are approaching the area. While the toddler is fairly visible at this location the scenario would be different if the crossing occurred further to the north (toward the background) where there is a curve and there is a view obstruction caused by the bench. Furthermore children of such a small age are unpredictable and are capable of running into the path of a cyclist at illogical times when a cyclist would not expect such a crossing.
In approximately 46.5 minutes of observation the two toddlers were observed to cross the cycling path 43 times, 28 times by the 4-year-old and 15 times by the 2-year-old.
In all 28 observations of the 4-year-old toddler, he always ran across the path, he never walked. In contrast the 2-year-old toddler never ran but always shuffled along at slow speed. Both of these motions are a problem. The fast-moving 4-year-old was capable of darting into the path quickly and would likely not give an approaching cyclist a reasonable opportunity to see him and avoid him. In contrast the 2-year-old’s slow motion made him more vulnerable because he could not walk fast enough to clear the path and he was too young to process the concept that his position on the path was a danger.
It is apparent that many parents or guardians of such children are not aware of the dangers that exist at this site. The playground provides an enticing attraction for parents who want their children to experience the new playground. Even if there is some apprehension, there is also a level of blind faith in parents that designers of the site would not expose children to unacceptable levels of harm. Incidents of minor injury, if properly documented could be the “canaries in the coal mine” whose warnings could lead to official recognition of a safety problem. Yet such proper documentation is rare whenever children, or pedestrians are involved. Police reports are rarely, or never, generated unless there is a serious injury or death.
The lack of reporting of injuries is known but was clearly reinforced when an injury incident occurred during the videotaping session but out of the view of the video cameras. While Zygmunt Gorski was sitting on a bench south of the playground he observed a teenage male and female fall on the steepest portion of the downslope in the vicinity of 50 to 100 metres north of the CNR overpass. The initial fall by the male in a red t-shirt was particularly harsh and he laid on the edge of the path for several seconds. The second fall by the female, who had been travelling at a substantial distance behind, was not as harsh. Upon reaching their location Gorski observed that the female only sustained a slight cut and abrasion to one of her elbows.
In contrast it was difficult to get the male’s attention as he was moaning and bending over from pain. There was an obvious, wound in the area of his right elbow. But his level of consciousness appeared normal as he was exhibiting his reactions to his acute pain. As the teenagers left the area and continued walking northward down the slope, the male continued to moan, bend over occasionally and hold his right arm with his left. A photo was taken of the pair as they approached the playground and this is shown below.
Later review of the video session identified that the two teenagers had passed by the cameras along with two other teenagers approximately 15 minutes before the fall. All four teenagers were originally southbound as shown in the two frames from video shown below.
The table below provides a full documentation of the speeds of the four teenagers from the time that they passed through the south end of the Pottersburg Creek bridge (at the 295 metre marker) up to the time that they passed through the 125 metre marker and then their subsequent return northbound. They were initially travelling southbound then, approximately 15 minutes later, they were observed travelling northbound. The two teenagers who fell did so during their northbound travel along the steepest portion of the downslope north of the CNR overpass.
Some frames taken from the video cameras are shown below. During their southbound travel the two leading teenagers seemed to be waiting for the other two and thus their speed was slower than perhaps they would have wanted. Near the 150-metre marker the leading teenager (with the white socks) was seen almost coming to a stop and looking back at the other two who were struggling to keep up. This view from the 150-metre camera is shown below.
Once the red-shirted and female teenagers caught up to the leading riders the two leading riders began to accelerate up the slope, as shown in the video frame below from the 125-metre camera.
The video frame below is taken from the 125-metre camera and shows how the red-shirted teenager struggled to accelerate as he reached the marker and he partially rode off the edge of the path.
As the red-shirted teenager passed the 125-metre marker he seemed to give up with riding the skateboard as he was not attaining enough speed and he reached down to pick-up the board, as shown in the video frame below.
Upon picking up his skateboard the red-shirted teenager began running with it up the slope, as shown in the frame below.
The female teenager continued to ride behind the three male riders. For brief periods, as shown below, she managed to ride her board up the slope.
Fifteen minutes later the video cameras caught the two leading teenagers descending rapidly northbound along the path. The leading teenager (in the white socks) appeared to be having no difficulty travelling down the slope even through his speed reached almost 40 km/h. The other leading teenager was likely able to keep his stability due to the steering available to him on his push scooter.
Even while approaching the area of the new playground the lead rider continued to travel at high speed, as shown in the video frame below.
As the lead rider and his follower approached the area of the new playground their speed was still over 35 km/h, as shown in the previous table. In the video frame below the two riders are shown passing the 225 metre marker as captured by the camera at that location.
Another view of the two leading riders is shown in the video frame below. This is as the riders are approaching the area of the new playground. Fortunately there were no little children on or near the path as they passed through.
The lead rider in the video frames shown above and below had developed an advanced level of ability in riding his skateboard yet he failed to understand that his actions influenced the riders that accompanied him. While testing his abilities this young rider did not take into consideration that his actions might influence the riders he was with. Maturity of thought and understanding takes time to develop and sometimes, in some persons, it never reaches an acceptable level. Yet, this difference in human ability must be accepted as not everyone can be the best in everything they do. Designers of municipal paths must understand that there will be all levels of humans using a public facility and design must take into consideration those who are physically or mentally below the norm.
Victim blaming is a common strategy when public infrastructure fails to meet acceptable standards. If a toddler is struck and injured while on the path this can be blamed on the child, the parent who should have been more careful or the cyclist, skateboarder or roller-bladder who was travelling too fast and was not reasonably attentive. Municipalities and the Province of Ontario have large Risk Management departments with savvy lawyers that know how to escape liability.
The City of London ought to have known that the construction of the overpass over the CNR railway in 2018 would produce consequences as a result of the downslopes created on both sides of the overpass. In extending the path northward toward the Trafalgar Street underpass they also had an opportunity to consider how the design would affect pedestrians, cyclists and all other users as the new path made a poor connection with the original underpass at Trafalgar Street. After these failures they had an additional opportunity to consider the safety implications of placing a playground, designed for use by very young children, next to the TVP when they ought to have known that users such as cyclists, skateboarders or roller bladders would be travelling at heightened speed along the downgrade toward the area of the playground. These failures will now be difficult to correct. It will not be possible to simply dig up the whole area and start over. Yet there are no easy solutions to the problems that have been created over an extended time of misapplication. There ought to be properly functioning advisory committees of independent persons in the City of London who have some reasonable ability to make the City’s administration and politicians aware of potential problems and make them accountable for such failures. Yet, as have been demonstrated from our experience, attempts to present independent studies at such advisory committee meetings have been thwarted by City staff.
Regrettably the only solution to failures in acceptable design and maintenance of public infrastructure is the courts. Yet some judges have failed to understand their obligation to protect the vulnerable public. Accountability of public officials and institutions are cornerstones in the proper functioning of any society. Yet there are instances where that accountability has fallen short in the Province of Ontario.
You can complain about the quality of the roads you drive but Gorski Consulting is the only site that provides, objective, comparative data for many roads in Southern Ontario.
New data has now been uploaded to the “Road Data” page of this Gorski Consulting website, from testing conducted this spring along various roads in London, Ontario. Testing using two types of school buses was obtained to compare these results to the previous data using a 2007 Buick Allure. A small 18-Passenger school bus was also used to obtain data while crossing over speed bumps located within London.
These data help to solidify the point made previously that the use of the accelerometers and gyros of an Apple iPhone results in reliable data being produced that can identify the quality of a road surface. Not only that, but testing has also be done on a variety or roadway features such as bridge junctions, railway tracks, incomplete road repairs and speed bumps. Thus on can compare the severity of the effect on a vehicle from driving over these features. There is no other data available that makes a comparison between all these roadway surfaces and features using a consistent and objective methodology.
The data simply reports the magnitude of the motion of a test vehicle caused by traveling on a road surface or crossing over a certain road feature. It can be appreciated that the greater reaction of the test vehicle means that the road surface or feature has caused that motion and therefore there must be something about the surface or feature that prevents the vehicle from travelling in an undisturbed manner. While much of the data is reported in averages, typically over a time of 30 seconds, anyone interested in more detail about a specific location can simply contact us and we can provide data that is of much greater detail.
For example, in the testing of roadway features the data is reported over a time duration of only one to two seconds. Thus it is possible to examine the reaction the test vehicle as it crosses over the very short distance and time surrounding that feature.
Anyone interested in conducting their own testing, or who wishes that testing be performed at a desired location, is encouraged to contact us in London, Ontario at 519-453-2773.
Don’t speculate about someone’s death until you know. But when will you know? Likely never. And that is also not helpful.
As a result of a July 3, 2021 collision, a westbound driver was killed when his car apparently drove into the rear of tractor-trailer on Highway 401 near Avenue Road in Toronto. The following Twitter comment was made about the incident as follows:
“Let me guess, the truck was parked on the shoulder. This guy comes out of nowhere while most likely distracted driving and just rear ends the parked truck and dies instantly”.
For many persons detailed investigation is not needed. Even the scarcest information will do to develop a conclusion. While some will criticize this form of discrimination the reality is that this is who we are. When a significant event occurs we have to have an answer for it. And when not enough information is provided we improvise. Guess. Speculate. This is who we are.
What is regrettable is that we really need to know and draw informed opinions, for the sake of ourselves and those that we influence by our speculation. We need to know because those wrong conclusions can kill us, and have killed us for many years, because we simply do not know what happens in roadway scenarios that will kill us.
Why collisions occur is complicated. When detailed reconstructions are carried out they often become a matter of an analyst’s opinion developed from their own education and experience. And, regrettably, even the conclusions from such detailed reconstructions are insufficient and wrong. Those at the top of the reconstruction food chain are likely those from scientific organizations such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the U.S. or the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) in Canada. Members of such organizations are often highly experienced, highly educated, and the least to be influenced by politics and general bias. But they cannot examine every collision. What remains is that collisions are analyzed by the “next best thing”. And if the “next best thing” is an analyst with less training and experience because there is no other choice.
The news coming from typical police and news media sources is always based on the most minimal objective evidence and long before any real analysis is carried out. That is unfortunate because this is the only information that the public sees and hears. By the time that some proper analysis is carried out the story becomes long cold and never reaches the news and the public. What remains in the public’s eye is what was exchanged from an initial interview of a police spokesperson, a witness, or simply a reporter who believes he or she knows what took place. While some information may trickle out months or years later via the reporting of the progress or results of a trial those reports cannot provide the detailed explanations of the investigative findings and analysis this is needed to truly understand what happened and how it happened.
If we are to make headway in improving collision consequences engineering can do a great deal. We can engineer a road environment that lessens the chances of driver errors and when errors occur the roadway environment can lessen the severity of those consequences.
We can also engineer improvements in vehicles themselves. In the current example there is a need to examine under-ride protection so that guards at the rear of trailers are sufficiently effective.
However, through decades of understanding that collision analysis involves The Human, The Vehicle and The Environment, or HVE for short, we fail to consider some aspects of the Human issue. A missing segment is that we humans need to be educated, not just preached to. The present collision is one of millions of missed opportunities to inform the public about what matters because no useful information will ever be revealed as to why the rear-ending driver collided with the tractor-trailer. And so we all become speculators, guessers, improvisors for the fact that we know very little about how collisions occur. The words of the Twitter comment pass through our heads as news of each collision is brought to our attention: we know precisely what happened and there is nothing or no one who can tell us differently.
Stiffer stunt driving penalties have been introduced in Ontario effective July 2, 2021. But how many stunt drivers will be caught is an important question. Is it like winning a bad lottery?
A CTV News article reported yesterday that:
“Between January 2021 to the end of May, Toronto saw a 90 per cent increase in racing and stunt driving charges compared to the same time in 2019.
The city says that police issued 276 racing and/or stunt driving tickets during that time, which is nearly 130 more tickets than they gave out during those months in 2019.”
While this data is somewhat useful and informative, a key issue is how many stunt drivers are actually out there and how many times do drivers engage in stunt driving before they are caught? Reportedly 276 racing/stunt tickets were issued over 5 months in Toronto or about 55 per month or just under 2 per day. Is there an estimate as to how many drivers actually engage in racing/stunt driving without being caught? Is it 2 per day, 10 per day, 100 per day?
Certainly a reasonable estimate could be easily obtained from the numerous surveillance cameras positioned throughout the city. But there is a reason why such data is not provided as it is a performance measure that may not look too good in the public’s eye.
The result of increased penalties for stunt driving may not be what the public might expect. If there are not enough “boots on the ground” enforcements, and if many racers/stunt drivers are able to escape without being caught, then the process becomes no different then winning a bad lottery. With a minimal chance of being caught stunt driving continues and the very few who get caught may receive penalties that could affect their entire lives.
For example, in a first offence a driver will receive a driving suspension of one to three years. If the driver needs to drive to maintain a job then he/she could lose that job. We may not cry tears for that outcome but what happens next? If that person is now unemployed he/she does not just disappear. That person may be using public funds to survive. That person may become homeless, walk the streets or perhaps turn to crime. And then we set up commissions of inquiry to understand where the homeless persons came from or how they got there or why crime exists. Perhaps a reasonable approach is to conduct a deep study of those persons who engage in racing/stunt driving in addition to penalizing them.
The important issue then is, accompanied by the stiffer penalties, we need to ensure that there is sufficient enforcement that racing/stunt driving becomes prohibitive, not just a chance of being struck by lighting in a winter storm. Where is the data that tells us whether these official actions are being successfully prohibitive?
In Toronto, Ontario recent news reports indicate that approximately 20 to 30,000 tickets are issued per month from the operation of speed cameras which began operation in July of 2020.
Politicians in other cities like London, Ontario have been waiting for the Province to complete its review of the photo radar program but have now decided to commence installation of cameras rather than wait for rules to be finalized. The London plan is to install cameras at select school zones. Yet, if installation occurs, the Province has required that advance warnings to the public must be included. A sign indicating “Municipal speed camera coming soon” must be posted for three months before the cameras come into operation. During the camera’s operation a sign must also be posted indicating “camera in use”.
In Ontario speed cameras capture the speed of a vehicle without necessarily identifying the driver. This means that tickets are sent to the owner of the vehicle, and not necessarily the driver. In a large percentage of cases the driver is essentially the same as the owner, but not always. Since tickets are issued against vehicle owners this method does not cause drivers to lose demerit points which are key to removing speeding drivers from the road and increasing their insurance premiums.
This problem is particularly important when the wealth of individuals is taken into account. The maximum fine from a speed camera is $718 which is incurred upon travelling at 50 km/h or higher above the posted speed limit. While this cost may be high for a typical vehicle owner, it can be minimal for someone of considerable wealth. A wealthy owner/driver pays a very minimal amount compared to their wealth while a regular owner/driver pays much more.
Furthermore, since no demerit points are lost the wealthy owner/driver does not receive the worst penalty unless the speed of their vehicle travels at 50 km/h beyond the speed limit. Once a vehicle is determined to be travelling at 50 km/h over the speed limit the vehicle owner is required to appear before a Justice of the Peace. But this means that a wealthy driver could drive at 40 km/h above the speed limit on numerous occasions while facing minimal repercussions.
The problem is evidenced by the record of a repeat offender that reportedly received 15 speeding tickets in April, 2021. Have the speed cameras been successful in curbing this driver’s habit of speeding?
According to information reported by local news media the Toronto data also appears to show some unusual findings. Only 1506 offenders were reportedly caught by the cameras in April, 2021 and a total of 22,635 tickets were issued. Simple math would suggest that, on average, these 1506 offended incurred over 15 tickets in April. This seems odd since so much publicity was generated about a single driver who received 15 tickets. As standards of news editting are noticeably deteriorating in recent years it would be not unusual that these reported data may be in error.
Meanwhile those law-abiding persons in the general population who understand the importance of obeying the law may follow that law precisely. Traffic speed cameras are able to charge offenders at a rate of $5 for every km/h that a vehicle travels between 1-19 km/h above the speed limit. Our experience in conducting detailed reconstructions of collisions over the past 40 years has indicated that there is no meaningful safety difference between a driver travelling at 49 km/h and 51 km/h in a posted 50 km/h speed zone. But a traffic camera does not understand that logic, it just issues tickets based on pre-coded instructions. In many instances drivers can be so focused on the precise speed of their vehicles within the range of speed cameras that they fail to detect other importance clues that might prevent them from causing or avoiding a collision.
While speed is an important factor in collision causation and its consequences, the issue is more complex than is often revealed. Travel speed is not the same as impact speed. A vehicle may be travelling as 60 km/h but due to pre-crash braking the vehicle’s impact speed may be reduced to 40 km/h in about one second.
Similarly the impact speed does not fully relate to injury causation. It is the change-in-speed, or more correctly, the change-in-velocity, that is a better predictor of injury. A vehicle with an impact speed of 100 km/h may be involved in a collision that is equal in severity to a vehicle travelling at 40 km/h. It all depends on what happens during that impact and what change in speed (velocity) occurs during that impact.
Furthermore, the change-in-velocity has its own problems with relating to safety in individual collisions. The mass of vehicles, the way they interact with each other, the characteristics of the occupants, etc, all have their influences that need to be considered.
There is an impetus for reducing maximum posted speeds on urban, residential streets from 50 km/h to 30 km/h. The logic is that reducing the maximum posted speed will result in lower average speeds and lower risk of injury and death. While such actions may reduce average speeds it is not clear how this will change the actions of the small percentage of high risk drivers who ignored maximum posted speeds even when they were posted at 50 km/h. If such high risk drivers travelled at 80 km/h in the 50 km/h zone will they suddenly reduce their speed to 30 or 40 km/h just because the posted maximum speed has been reduced? Will an impaired driver be influenced by the change in posted speed? Without an increased presence of police in residential neighbourhoods speed cameras will have to be installed in very large numbers to ensure that most instances of speeding are captured. The actions of the public in general are changed by the presence of the speed cameras yet the small percentage of truly dangerous drivers, those who should be the target of safety campaigns, are more difficult to change.