Cycling Path Usage in London, Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disturbing Fire & Deaths in Crash on Hwy 427 In Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Expressway Rear-End Impacts Need Better Evaluations

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

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

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

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

“Construction Carnage Alley” And Other Median Barrier Issues on Hwy 401

This median cross-over collision occurred on Highway 401 at Merlin Road in December of 2018 even though a cable barrier was installed at the location.

While it is good news that the Ontario government announced the first phase of construction on a median barrier in Highway 401’s “Carnage Alley” the news may not be all good. The flip side of this news is that construction will mean additional deaths if the Province does not have a plan to deal with deadly construction traffic conflicts on this high speed highway. The goal is to complete this first phase of construction by the year 2022. It will involve an 11 kilometre segment from the Town of Tilbury to Merlin Road. Other phases will follow. During these multiple years of construction closed lanes will mean that the normal flow of traffic will be disrupted and collisions will be caused. The Province of Ontario has never provided a public account of the number of collisions that occur as a result of such flow disruptions. This is not surprising as such information could cast focus on the government’s activities and whether reasonable precautions and plans were developed to minimize collisions. Also many news reports of collisions often hide the fact that a collision on Highway 401 was related to construction activity.

The building of a concrete barrier will also include the widening of Highway 401 to 3 lanes in each direction. This is also good and bad news. More lanes mean an easing of traffic congestion. However the existence of a third lane will mean that the large percentage of heavy truck traffic will be located predominantly in that far right lane. When an emergency occurs, and there is a loss-of-directional control, such a truck will very often be directed toward the concrete barrier. The problem is that, when such a truck is located far away from the barrier it has an opportunity to change its direction of travel more so than if it were located in the passing lane, close to the barrier. Thus the angle of approach to the barrier will be increased. It is the angle of approach that is an important factor in the severity of an impact with a barrier. When a heavily loaded truck strikes a concrete barrier at a sharp angle there is no guarantee that the barrier will remain intact or that the truck will be held back from plowing through or over it. The characteristics of the barrier are important to identify so that it can be judged whether it will meet the demands of a heavy truck impact.

In the U.S. new procedures for testing the safety of roadside hardware have been published in the “Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware” or MASH for short. Six different test levels are described and the higher test levels involve progressively larger vehicles. For example Test Levels 5 and 6 (TL-5 and TL-6) involve a tractor-trailer, weighing about 79,000 lbs, travelling at 50 mph and striking the barrier at an angle of 15 degrees. While this information is available to the U.S. public essentially no comparable information about testing procedures is publicly available in Ontario. Has Ontario adopted the MASH procedures for assessing the safety of the Highway 401 median barrier? Has the proposed barrier been tested under similar test levels? No one has asked these important questions.

One Thousand Observations of Responses To Roadway Traffic Signals

Applying an accurate estimate of the delay to the expected reaction of a driver to a collision situation is an extremely important part of a collision reconstruction. Documenting driver responses to traffic signals can provide useful research data for that purpose.

Gorski Consulting has been involved in a two-year study of driver reactions to the activation of a green traffic signal. In that time 1010 observations were made, predominantly in the City of London, Ontario, Canada. The observations were made using a dash camera that was activated while stopped behind vehicles at a traffic signal as in the example shown above. The video segments were analysed to determine when the green signal became activated and how long of a delay occurred before the brake light was extinguished on a stopped vehicle.

The chart shown below is a frequency count of the number of observations, at 1/10 second intervals, from zero to 1.2 seconds delay. The “P/R” refers to “Perception Response” delay.

The above chart accounts for only 799 of the 1010 observations. The remaining observations fell outside of the chart’s range and that is an important finding.

In 236 of the 1010 observations the response delay was equal to or greater than 1.0 seconds. Conversely, in 234 of the 1010 observations the response delay was less than 0.4 seconds.

Stated another way, about 63 percent of the responses were between 0.4 and 1.2 seconds. The remaining 37 percent were either shorter or longer than this range.

It can be fairly certain that a typical driver should not be able to release a brake pedal in less than 0.4 seconds after the activation of a green signal. Therefore the 236 observations where the delay was shorter than 0.4 seconds suggests that about 24 percent of observed drivers were likely releasing their brake pedal before the traffic signal turned green. In fact the actual percentage was larger because in a number of instances vehicles were observed to be crawling forward even though the brake lights were still activated. Thus drivers were releasing their brake pedals just slightly but not enough to extinguish the brake lights.

Death of Cycling Professor – Final Results & Conclusions

The death of a retired professor while cycling across Gainsborough Road in London, Ontario Canada on September 5, 2020 led to an road safety study by Gorski Consulting.

This is the final in a series of four articles dealing with the death of a retired professor who died when attempting to cycle across Gainsborough Road in London, Ontario on September 5, 2020. Data has been collected to document the volume and speed motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. The finalized tables are now available below.

The first table (below) shows the average speed of 585 eastbound vehicles that were videotaped while travelling within a 200 metre distance approaching the multi-sue path. The data is broken down into six 20 minute segments. These speeds include the large number of turning vehicles that existed in the first hour of documentation

We can compare the numbers of vehicles travelling straight through the site by looking at the last column “EB Straight Thru Vehs As % of All Vehs”. This shows that in the first hour the data included many vehicles that were turning onto Gainsborough from two driveways on the north side of the road. As noted previously there was some kind of commercial event taking place at an establishment on the north side of the road and this was drawing a large number of vehicles in and out of the driveways. This is why the percent of vehicles travelling straight through the site was only in the range of 65 to 80 in the first hour. However in the second hour we can see that the percentage of straight-through vehicles rose to about 92 to 98. This shows that the commercial event was completed and vehicles were no longer exiting the driveways in the second hour of videotaping. This is also reflected in the smaller number of total eastbound vehicles (91, 63 and 85) in the last hour versus the larger numbers (118, 101 and 127) in the first hour.

In terms of average speeds of eastbound vehicles, these speeds were reduced as vehicles approached the cycling path. There was also a trend for higher speeds in the second hour as the interference caused by the turning vehicles was removed.

We can recall that on the eastward approach to the site the maximum posted speed limit was 60 km/h. As eastbound vehicles approached the 200 metre marker a sign was posted indicated that the maximum speed was reduced ahead to 50 km/h. Then just before reaching the cycling path another sign indicated the maximum posted speed was 50 km/h. So drivers travelling through the site should have been reducing their speed from 60 to 50 km/h. We can see in the above table that average speeds were substantially higher than those posted maximums.

There is further reason for concern when we remove those observations where an eastbound vehicle was interfered with by other vehicles. An interfering vehicle was defined as any vehicle that was within five seconds ahead of the subject vehicle. Thus it was reasoned that a driver following such an interfering vehicle was not free to chose an independent speed. When all those observations of interference were removed from the above table the adjusted results are noted in the table below.

Comparing the data in the two tables the average speed of vehicles was increased when those 232 vehicles that travelled straight through the site and experienced no interference. This is particularly obvious in the first hour of observations where the interference caused by left-turning vehicles was present. If we look at the distance of 200 to 150 metres west of the cycling path the average speeds in the first hour were 66.14, 68.55 and 62.79 km/h as noted in the first table. But in the second table those average speeds rose to 68.08, 71.24 and 68.98 km/h. Similar results are apparent in the other distance segments.

Interference must be considered an influencing factor in the speeds of eastbound vehicles on Gainsborough Road. It is more likely that a cyclist or pedestrian might try to cross Gainsborough at times when there is no interference. In other words, it is unlikely that cyclists or pedestrians would try to cross when the gap between eastbound vehicles was five seconds or less. Thus it is important to examine the average speed of non-interfered vehicles rather than examining the total population of eastbound vehicles.

The numbers and percentages of eastbound speeding vehicles for the full two hours of documentation are summarized in the table below.

The above table shows that, out of the 232 eastbound vehicles that travelled without interference the numbers and percentage of speeders is as follows:

130 vehicles travelled at 72 km/h or greater, or 56.03 % of total

44 vehicles travelled at 80 km/h or greater, or 18.97 % of total

4 vehicles travelled at 90 km/h or greater, or 1.72 % of total

Even if the maximum posted speed was 60 km/h throughout the full distance of 200 metres west of the cycling path this would still indicate that about 19 % of non-interfered drivers chose to drive at 20 km/h or greater above the posted speed. But we know that these drivers were informed that they were approaching a 50 km/h zone thus the speed difference is even greater than 20 km/h.

These results should not be surprising. The eastbound vehicles had been travelling on a rural highway just before reaching the collision site where the posted maximum speed was 80 km/h. The collision site is just at the edge of the built up area of the City of London. The maximum speed of 60 km/h is posted at a distance of approximately 500 metres west of the cycling path. Then at approximately 250 metres a sign indicates that a maximum speed of 50 km/h is just ahead. Then within 20 metres west of the cycling path a sign indicates the 50 km/h maximum speed. However the erection of such signs does not guarantee that drivers will follow that requirement. Indeed numerous traffic studies conducted by Gorski Consulting, based on videotaped motions of vehicles, have shown that drivers do not travel at or below the speed posted on a maximum speed sign. The degree to which drivers speed through a site changes from one location to another. This is why detailed studies are needed to determine where speeding is a greater problem and if further actions to reduce speeds are necessary.

The following series of five images shows what can happen when vehicles are travelling too quickly in a area where visibility is poor. These images are frames taken from a video camera positioned on the east side of the cycling path on the north side of Gainsborough Road. The two cyclists in the images are travelling in the same (southbound) direction as the retired professor and his partner. As can be seen the female in the lead does not look toward the west while the male cyclist looks twice. Both times there is no eastbound vehicle in view. Then, as the male rider is looking forward in the last frame, a red eastbound vehicle appears just past the edge of the trees/bushes.

It is unknown how the actual collision occurred in which the professor was killed. However this is an example where the combined effect of high motor vehicle speed and poor visibility could be major causal factors.

The slope of the roadside at the path is another factor that could influence the cause of a cyclist collision. It was observed that a substantial downslope existed on the south side of Gainsborough at the roadside between the sidewalk and the edge of pavement. Slopes are an issue for recreational cyclists because they can increase or decrease a cycle’s speed. A cyclist whose physical abilities may be limited can have difficulty travelling up slopes and this can reduce their speed. Similarly down-slopes can push a cyclist into an unwanted position or make the cycle more difficult to stop.

The photos below show how slope measurements were taken on both sides of Gainsborough Road along the crossing at the cycling path. A carpenter’s level attached to a digital level was used to measure the slope in percent. In the three photos below the measurement being taken is at the south sidewalk and this gave a reading of 1.6 % downslope to the north (i.e. toward the road).

The next three photos show a similar measurement being taken of the south roadside located between the sidewalk and the edge of the roadway pavement.  This reading showed a downslope of 11.6% to the north (i.e. toward the road).

As a comparison, roadway geometric design manuals for the province of Ontario recommend a maximum downslope of 12 percent for secondary roads. Thus the roadside slope is at the top of that maximum recommendation for roads driven by motor vehicles. However, cycles are not motor vehicles and they do not possess the “low rear” that can help a braking system to slow a vehicle’s motion along a downslope. The only way to reduce a cycle’s speed on a downslope is to use the cycle’s brakes. This is not ideal when approaching a busy roadway where it is important for a cyclist to stop before entering the roadway.

View looking south toward the sloped roadside between the south sidewalk and the edge of the pavement of Gainsborough Road.

Northbound cyclists, such as those from the video frame shown below, were observed to stop at the top of the downgrade, on the sidewalk, to make traffic observations before descending the downslope and crossing the road. When starting their motions from a distance away from the road they increase their travel distance and time and make themselves more vulnerable to problems if they misjudge the speed of approaching vehicles.

An example, taken from video on September 13, 2020, shows northbound cyclists stopped at the top of the downgrade while observing whether it is safe to cross Gainsborough Road. This causes a longer time and distance to cross the road and a potential safety concern.

Various riders exist on a cycling path, some of them may be elderly, some may have physical limitations and some may be small children who may be inexperienced in handling their cycle. Such limitations need to be kept in mind when considering the safety of an intersection of a cycling path with a busy road.

This example, taken from video of September 13, 2020, shows a family with small toddlers being pushed in car-like carriers. Behind them is a southbound cyclist. This demonstrates the diversity of persons that could be crossing at the multi-use path and the need to consider their safety.

Similar slope measurements were taken on the north side of Gainsborough Road and these revealed less of a concern. The sidewalk on the north side was almost at the edge of the travelled surface of the road. The surface at the path gate was essentially level whereas the slope at the north edge of the sidewalk was 6.1%, as shown in the photos below.

The speed of pedestrians or cyclists crossing Gainsborough Road can be estimated from various research. However it is also helpful to obtain data from the actual site. The following table provides the time taken (in seconds) for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the 11.7 metres of pavement between the north and south curbs of Gainsborough.

 

A typical, 2-lane roadway might be about 8 metres wide. The extra road width at the site was due to the presence of a centre, mutual-turn lane as shown in the westward view below.

This westward view looking toward the path crossing shows a centre, left-turn lane that increased the curb-to-curb width of Gainsborough Road to 11.7 metres. This photo taken on September 13, 2020 also shows another (red) car parked at the west side of the path thus blocking visibility at the path.

While the average crossing time of the 23 observations in the above table was about 6.7 seconds there were a number of observations of much longer times. The previously mentioned 2 adults pushing the two toddlers on mini-cars (Observation #13) involved a crossing time of almost 14 seconds. An eastbound motor vehicle travelling at 80 km/h will travel about 22.2 metres per second. Thus in 14 seconds such a vehicle would travel about 311 metres. However, we must also remember that a crossing pedestrian would need additional time to survey the roadway, and then move forward to the curb before that 14 second count-down would begin. Thus one can see that the parents (?) in Observation 13 could be making a judgment to cross the road when a speeding vehicle could be well over 300 metres away, or even 400 metres away. In such long distances a pedestrian would not be capable of detecting the travel speed of a vehicle. For example it is well-established from past research that, barring additional ques, an observer would have difficulty detecting the speed of an approaching vehicle, using the expanding size of the vehicle in the observer’s field of view, until that vehicle is about 175 metres away. If there are sufficient numbers of cyclists and pedestrians who take such long times to cross this roadway then a reasonable solution is to install a signalized, pedestrian crossing at such a site.

The safety of the Gainsborough site is compromised by the lack of any signage warning drivers on Gainsborough Road of the presence of the multi-use (cycling) path. However signage is not always the best improvement as most drivers ignore their warnings.

Judging by the data collected on the Sunday afternoon of September 13, 2020, Gainsborough Road is well populated by motor vehicle traffic. The City of London indicates an Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) of 7500 vehicles for Gainsborough. Given what has been observed in our study and considering the rapid development in that edge of the City, it is likely that the present traffic volume is higher than what has been indicated in the City data. Residents who spoke with us during the video documentations advised that we should come to the site on a weekday afternoon peak-hour as the traffic volume would be much higher. This is a correct advisement as we were aware of that fact. The opportunities for users of the path to cross Gainsborough Road would likely be more limited on a weekday peak hour than what has been shown in our data.

The City of London is likely no different than many cities in Canada and North America where a rapid transformation is taking place from a transportation system designed for dominance by motor vehicles to one that includes active transportation. During this transition infrastructure modifications have involved compromises where certain developments are less than ideal from a safety viewpoint. While many new developments have the luxury of “starting from scratch” and thus including well-developed facilities for active transportation, older developments remain challenging. How do you insert a new, multi-use path system into an old traffic system that did not envisage such a need? At newer developments, how do you maintain safety until sufficient in-fill occurs and funds become available to complete certain safety projects that would otherwise remain incomplete? These are complicated and difficult decisions. Gorski Consulting continues to examine and report on cycling paths and facilities to illuminate where improvements need to be made.

Death of Cycling Professor – Part III – Further Results

This retired professor died while cycling across Gainsborough Road in London, Ontario, Canada. The incident prompted Gorski Consulting to conduct a safety audit of the site.

This is the third article in a series of four, that discusses the findings of Gorski Consulting related to an examination of the site on Gainsborough Road in London, Ontario where a retired professor was killed when using a multi-use cycling path. The previous two articles provided results from the first 40 minutes of videotape of a two-hour session conducted on Sunday, September 13, 2020.

In the previous two articles the results of eastbound traffic volumes and speeds was provided for vehicles approaching the cycling path located on Gainsborough Road just west of Hyde Park Road on the western outskirts of London. It was apparent that a commercial event was taking place next to the site which caused large numbers of vehicles to enter and exit  two driveways just west of the cycling path. It is likely that these turning vehicles caused interference to vehicles travelling straight through the site and therefore the speed of many vehicles was likely reduced.

The new data presented here is for an additional 40 minutes of observations. In the first 20 minutes of this new data there was a continuation of the disruptions caused by the turning vehicles. However in the second 20 minutes the commercial event must have come to an end as the number of turning vehicles ceased. This had an effect on the calculated speed of eastbound vehicles as indicated in the following tables.

The first table shows the average speed of all eastbound vehicles that travelled straight through the site. This table was shown in the previous article but now we have added the data from the “40 to 60 Minutes” and the “60 to 80 Minutes”. What this shows is a marked increase in average speeds as the number of observations decreased as the number of turning vehicles dropped in the “60 to 80 Minute” period.

This is indicated further when we look at the smaller number of observations containing only those vehicles that experienced no interference, shown in the table below.

With less interference the speed of eastbound vehicles increased such that between 200 and 100 metres west of the path the average speed of eastbound vehicles was in the range of 73 to 75 km/h. We can examine the data further by selecting just the speeding vehicles as shown in the following table.

Note in the table above that the number of speeding vehicles increased in the last 20 minutes (“60 to 80 minutes”). 70% of the eastbound vehicles were observed to be travelling at 72 km/h or higher. We even had two observations of vehicles travelling over 90 km/h. This is in an area where the maximum speed is posted at 60 km/h, reducing to 50 km/h just before reaching the cycling path.

Thus the data is beginning to show a trend whereby the average speed of vehicles appears to be unacceptably high when eastbound drivers are not interfered with their selected speed. We will have more to say once we complete the remaining 40 minutes of videotape and present the results in the final article on this issue.

Did A Young Mother Die In A Vehicle Fire? We Must Know

This is a very good photo of a London Police cruiser. But it has nothing to do with a vehicle fire that may have killed a young mother. That is a problem.

Everyone is devastated when a young life is lost due to the actions of an impaired driver. And we want to prevent its recurrence. Why does that same concern not apply to post collision fires?

News media reported that yesterday, October 3, 2020, a head-on collision occurred on Highbury Ave south of Manning Drive, on the southern edge of London, Ontario. At least one of the news outlets reported that a 35-year-old female was killed by the actions of an alcohol-impaired driver. Yet there was no mention of the fact that the woman died in a fire-engulfed vehicle.

A second news article posted by CTV News was more clear. It reported a post by Rebecca Blackmore who indicated “So many people, including her boyfriend, worked to try to pull the person out of the vehicle but couldn’t”.

In another post from Cindy Jones, she recalled “Yes, it was so horrible. My son is having a difficult time. He was trying to help getting her out. He said that the steering wheel and column was right against her. She said she couldn’t move (her) leg”.

CTV News reported that “Jones would like to see vehicles carry extinguishers”. Jones reportedly stated “I want to say something – everyone should buy a fire extinguishers for (their) vehicle. Could have made a difference. Her vehicle was pretty much gone by the time anyone showed up”.

CTV News also posted a statement by the deceased’s heartbroken husband.

There is no pleasure in reporting such facts. And many police and news refuse to do so. When a fire takes the life of someone the fact is hidden from the public as if this will somehow lighten the load for the family and friends of a deceased. But these short-sighted beliefs fail to address the very important fact that we need to make the public aware of these tragedies so they can be prevented. Hiding these outcomes does nothing to prevent them, it only enables them in the future.

Just two days ago Gorski Consulting posted an article on this website entitled “Silence About Post-Collision Fires”. There we wrote:

“The above incident reportedly occurred on September 30, 2020 at Perth County Road 135 and Line 44. OPP indicated that there were “No serious injuries”. However in many serious collisions doors can become jammed or occupants can become entrapped by deformation thus preventing escape from a post-collision vehicle. If a fire were to start, in many cases, the only hope is for emergency personnel to arrive in time to free an occupant. But if emergency personnel do not arrive in time, or if the extrication procedures become complicated, an occupant could be trapped without the possibility of escape. This is a real concern that cannot be avoided by silence. Steps must  be taken to identify the numbers of post-collisions fires and why they seem to be occurring more often.”

What we wrote two days ago is precisely what occurred yesterday. A young mother did not escape a fire because she was trapped and no one could save her. What if we had posted this warning two years ago? (Actually we have posted man similar warnings in the past) What if police had made more effort to warn the public of these outcomes? What if police had informed the public that they were in contact with Transport Canada and that this federal agency was dealing with this potential safety problem? What if more news outlets such as CTV News in London took the courage to post these tragic results and get more public impetus for all responsible agencies to high-light this issue? Could we have saved this current tragedy from occurring? Unfortunately, in this instance, we will never know. But this is yet another opportunity to save the next future life by making all aware that vehicle occupants are dying in post-collision fires.

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