Cyclist Helmet Use in London Ontario

Observations made in London Ontario in the first half of 2022 indicate that more than half of cyclists riding on or next to roadways in the City do not wear helmets. This is an important finding considering the risk to injury that occurs when helmets are not used.

When have you last seen a professional, racing cyclist not wearing a helmet? At a minimum that should provide an indication of how important helmet use is to the safety of all cyclists. Yet what information is available to the average cyclist riding along or adjacent to urban roads about helmet use? Turns out that not much, or no information is provided. Collisions occur, some of them fatal, yet the involvement of helmet use in those collisions is never reported.

While conducting observations of cyclists along roadways in London Ontario, Gorski Consulting has provided a variety of data about cyclist speeds, characteristics of cyclists and where they ride. In the latest data, from the first six months of 2022, we have now also examined the issue of helmet use. And the results are quite surprising.

The Helmet Use Data

Cyclists were observed on the streets of London over a period of six months from the beginning of 2022 until the end of June. In that time photos were taken of 501 cyclists who were either riding cycles on a roadway, riding on a sidewalk or stopped within any portion of the traffic right-of-way. The results of these observations are summarized in the table below.

There were 417 male and 58 female observations. In 6 observations the gender of the cyclist could not be determined.

Where gender could be determined the percent of female riders was just 12.2 %. This finding is not much different from findings from other years dating back to 2013.

Looking at helmet use, 248 of the 417 males cyclists were not wearing a helmet. This amounts to 59.5 % non-usage. For females, out the total of 58 observations, 29 were observed not to be wearing a helmet, or 50.0 % non-usage.

The actual percentages of non-use were actually higher because the non-use counts discussed here are for instances where we could be certain that a helmet was not used. In a number of instances a cyclist head was not visible or was covered by other clothing such as a hood. While the number of those instances was not large it, never-the-less, indicates that the actual percentage of non-use of helmets is higher than indicated.

This is a view of a London cyclist on January 4, 2022. Even through we may experience winter temperatures some cyclists still refuse to put any protection on their heads.

Strangely, helmet non-use by cyclists appears to be less on the Thames Valley Parkway. In a study conducted in July, 2021 268 cyclists were observed in the Greenway Park area of the TVP. Sixty-eight cyclists were observed who were not wearing a helmet. This is a 25.3 % non-use rate. This rate of non-use appears to be much lower than the previously mentioned observations along City streets.

These results are both unexpected and concerning. Given the reasonable concern of being struck by passing motor vehicles one would think that cyclists would be more prone to accepting ways of protecting themselves with proven protective gear such as helmets. This data seems to contradict that expectation. Yet there is an additional factor that needs to be considered – the riding location of the cyclist.

Cyclist Location Data

The table below provides a breakdown of where the cyclists were located, if on the roadway or on the sidewalk.

The summary at the bottom of this table shows that, of the 417 male cyclists, 273 were observed to be riding or stopped on a sidewalk. Thus 65.47% of male cyclists were observed on a sidewalk. Similarly for females, of the 55 females, 38 were observed to be on a sidewalk. Thus 69.1% of female cyclists were observed on a sidewalk.

Thus one possibility for the low helmet use rates on London’s roads is that about two-thirds of cyclists ride on sidewalks where the danger of being struck by a motor vehicle is greatly diminished. This can only be speculated.

Cyclists riding in cycling lanes have been interpreted in our study as riding on the road versus riding on the sidewalk. With the creation of more cycling lanes in the City of London one would expect that recent data would show more cyclists riding on the road for this reason. Yet, despite numbers of cyclists using cycling lanes recent data still shows an increase in cyclists riding on the sidewalk. These results are perplexing.

What seems of interest is that the number of cyclists riding on sidewalks continues to be very high. The observations for these first six months of 2022 indicate a higher percentage of cyclists on sidewalks than in previous years where similar observations were made. It remains a topic of no discussion that Provincial traffic laws and London’s laws make it illegal for cyclists to ride on sideways and yet cyclists continue to disobey these laws. No one wants to address this large elephant in the room.

Latest Scandal At City of Hamilton Really Smells

The City of Hamilton is making many local area lawyers rich with investigations of its various scandals.

Congratulations taxpayers of Hamilton, you have officially won another local scandal. The price? You will be paying perhaps $300 million dollars out of your property taxes to pay for all the lawyers on all sides of the various scandals.

Presently you have been paying millions of dollars to conduct the Red Hill Valley Parkway Judicial Inquiry, which has been going on since 2019, and legal fees keep coming in. Once this inquiry is completed a $250 million class action lawsuit will commence. The largest benefactors from this legal process will be the lawyers.

Your next payments may be for the Chedoke Creek Sewage Leak scandal. Repercussions from this might have been lessened if your politicians and staff had been up front and admitted that the sewage leak occurred. Instead, politicians covered it up and even supported the cover-up after they got caught. And then some politicians wanted the City to investigate who leaked the leak to the public and punish the whistleblower(s).

Now, another sewage leak has been revealed that was dumping sewage into the Hamilton harbour for 26 years. City staff have downplayed the extent of the leak. And that it was all an understandable, inadvertent mistake. That may be so but why would you now believe anything that a city politician or staff member says? The script has likely been written by lawyers at the City of Hamilton Risk Management Department. Does that not give you a clue that the script was written to minimize the future legal implications? Can you really believe that the script was written to properly inform you?

Municipalities in Ontario all have a similar political and staff structure as Hamilton. There are members of the political and staff regimes who believe that they can do as they please because their actions and decisions rarely reach public scrutiny. Whatever repercussions may result from their actions these individuals rightly understand that municipal risk management departments will protect them because they are a part of the corporation. Taxpayer’s money is essentially limitless and, when all else fails, they can simply parashoot out of their positions and work elsewhere. Most municipalities do a good job of limiting their exposures to liability by listening to their handlers at their risk management departments. The unfortunate circumstance with Hamilton is that the actions of certain individuals crossed the line of the standard arrogance and local news media eventually exposed those actions. Unable to control local media the City of Hamilton was forced to come up with new lines of defense, including the invoking of a judicial inquiry. Its about public perception.

We can be sorry for the unknown number of taxpayers who tried to inform themselves about the character of the politicians for whom they voted and who set transparency and accountability high on their list of desirable qualities. For the rest we can simply say: you deserve what you got. You voted for politicians whose goal was to hide whatever could be hidden. You voted for politicians who were willfully blind and did not want to inquire what City staff was up to.

A new City mayor and council have been voted into office and it will be interesting to see if they understand transparency and accountability. The new mayor, Andrea Horwath, has requested an investigation into the latest sewage leak. It remains to be seen whether she will follow the script that her risk management lawyers give her.

Cycling Issues In London Ontario – A Commentary

People have a right to believe what they will but I believe climate change is not some devilish hoax. As such important changes must be made to how our society functions. The need to reduce our carbon footprints must involve the recognition that our transportation systems must change. Mass transit and active transportation are key components of this needed change.

I recognize that seemingly major changes have taken place in transportation infrastructure in my hometown, London, Ontario, like they have in many Canadian cities. Most notably many cycling paths, lanes and tracks have been constructed. This transformation is not easy: It irritates those driving personal motor vehicles like it also irritates cyclists who do not see that transformation occurring fast enough. However I recognize that this transformation must occur. During this difficult time of transition it is important to face the challenges with an open realism. Problems that develop cannot be just swept under the carpet, they must be identified and made visible. It is only through this openness that adjustments can be made with a minimum of disruption to all.

For this reason I have chosen to take a single day, November 3, 2022, as a random indicator of what cycling issues exist in London, Ontario. Photos were taken on this day while I drove through the streets of London. There is nothing special about this day. It is just something that we could expect on any typical fall day in London.

Typical Cycling Observations On A Typical Day

I begin this review with the photo, shown below, looking northward on Hale Street, taken of the newly constructed cycling facility at the intersection of Hale and Brydges Streets in east London. This intersection was altered to narrow the confines within which motor vehicles make turns. It is believed that such slower turning speeds will improve safety. The alteration also created protected lanes for cyclists.

This is a view looking north along Hale Street toward the intersection of Brydges Street in east London. The intersection was compressed recently when barriers were erected to reduce the width within which motor vehicles could make turns. This strategy is used to reduce the speed of those turns. It is believed that those reduced speeds will be a safety benefit.

The unfortunate reality is that there is a detrimental reason why speeds are reduced in narrowed regions whether they be here at this intersection or on any road. The reason why speed is reduced is because the narrowed area of passage increases the likelihood that a motor vehicle will travel outside of the narrowed lane. This is not an imaginary danger, it is real, and it is recognized by the motor vehicle driver. Egress from the narrowed lane increases the likelihood that an impact will occur with another vehicle or with roadside objects such as a curb, hazard marker or even a pole or a tree. Cities do not keep track of “minor” collisions thus those collisions are invisible in the official statistics. So, from an official standpoint, there is nothing but an improvement from narrowing roadways. But damage to a motor vehicle, even if minor, can be a substantial cost. A cost that remains unknown and untracked.

Another reality of cycling infrastructure is that too often cycling lanes become blocked or impassable for various reasons. In many cases motor vehicles, such a delivery and maintenance vehicles, stop in a cycling lane because there is no other way for drivers to complete their tasks. In other instances materials are left in the cycling lane. Garbage containers migrate into a cycling lane during days of garbage pick-up, snow is cleared from a road onto a cycling lane, or leaves fallen from trees are concentrated within a cycling lane. Thus there is still an infant stage of recognition that cycling lanes need more clearing of these vehicles and objects that prevent cycling lanes from being used.

The accumulation of fallen leaves on the cycling lane at the intersection of Hale and Brydges Streets is one example of a problem that needs to be addressed if the convenience and safety of cycling is to be increased.

Another reality is that cycling on many roads in London still remains a dangerous activity. While the City of London and the Province of Ontario continue to promote a fairytale that cycling is safer on the right portion of a travel lane, the reality is quite different along some roads. There are many roads in the City of London that remain extremely dangerous for cyclist travel. As an example, many four-lane arterials such as Highbury Ave, Oxford Street, Hamilton Road and east portions of Dundas Street contain no safe zone within which a cyclist can travel within the curb lane. It is exceptionally dangerous and unethical to continue to advise cyclists that it is safe to travel in the curb lanes of these roads when the danger of being struck is obvious. Many cyclists have come to understand these dangers and, despite the possibility that they could be fined by police, they opt to travel on the sidewalk.

This view shows a westbound cyclist entering the north sidewalk of Oxford Street after riding through a pedestrian crossing west of Quebec Street. Riding on this sidewalk is a safety benefit however the cyclist is unlikely to be aware that, if a collision occurs, civil litigation will likely attribute some of the blame, and loss in a claim, to the cyclist’s illegal position.

Yet this decision to ride on the sidewalk places cyclists in a difficult liability position if a collision should occur. Lawyers are quick to point out that the cyclist’s presence on a sidewalk, or riding within a pedestrian crossing is against the law. As such the cyclist faces financial penalties as some blame/negligence will be attributed to the cyclist. So, while the cyclist is doing what he or she can to avoid injury or death, they are penalized by the bureaucracy of the justice system. In many cases cyclists have no idea of these legal repercussions.

There are conflicts on city sidewalks where larger numbers of pedestrians may congregate, some being children, or elderly. Common sense should dictate that cyclists ought to slow down or even stop and walk their bikes on the sidewalk when such situations are encountered. This is a preferable approach than sending cyclists onto a dangerous curb lane.

This group of children and adults are near a school located on Oxford Street near Platts Lane. While cyclists could cause problems when riding on the sidewalk in the vicinity such pedestrians it is also possible to create expectations about proper cycling behaviour. Cyclists could easily slow down, stop, or turn off the sidewalk onto the nearby lawn to allow safe passage of pedestrians.

A portion of cyclists are radicalized to the point of refusing to recognize that they have a responsibility toward their own safety. While some cyclists may have difficulty paying for a good helmet there are others who refuse to wear one. It is not clear why. Decades ago many motor vehicle occupants refused to wear seat-belts as they attributed seat-belt laws as an unreasonable infringement on their right to freedom. It is not clear if a similar process is underway in the cycling community. Much like seat-belts helmets are proven to provide superior protection to cyclists, especially because serious head injury is such a common injury mechanism.

A substantial number of cyclists still refuse to wear helmets even though they might appreciate the consequences of such a decision.

While there is considerable emphasis and discussion about buying expensive e-bikes the reality, for a substantial number of low income cyclists, is that they must use less expensive and creative ways of moving about the City. For cargo carrying it is common to see a cyclist pulling a grocery cart. It has been observed along many roadways and sidewalks in London that cyclists use grocery carts to transport beer cans to the local beer store. Cyclists can be seen holding a grocery cart in one hand while holding the cycle handlebar in the other. If more cycling lanes are built that are only 1.5 metres wide, and if cyclists begin to be forced onto these lanes, where will this put these low-income cyclists and their wider, appended cart? They will not fit within the narrow confines of a protected cycling lane. Will such riders begin to ride in the curb lane? What safety problems will that create? Observations like these are obtained from detailed video documentations that have been conducted at Gorski Consulting for a number of years.

This rider is not uncommon in the City of London. Many cyclists use grocery carts to transport their supplies.

Transportation officials continue to insist that cyclists must be defined as small-sized, motor vehicles and that cyclists must behave like drivers of motor vehicles on the roads that are designed for motor vehicles. This creates the dangerous reality that cyclists do not fit that definition. It has been demonstrated from our numerous video documentations that cycles have never behaved like drivers of motor vehicles. Without this recognition dangerous scenarios are developed as shown in the photo sequence below.

In this photo a cyclist attempts to exit from the commercial driveway onto Trafalgar Street just east of Clarke Road. The cyclist wants to make a left turn to travel westbound on Trafalgar. He sees no reason why he should wait for the large truck which is also exiting from the same driveway so he pulls up along side the truck even through the visibility of his presence is greatly obscured.

As can be seen, the cyclist in these photos is attempting a left turn out of a commercial driveway but his presence is screened from view by the white truck. Such a position could not be attempted by a car driver because of the larger size and width of a motor vehicle. Yet, being of a much narrower width, the rider of the bicycle can squeeze into such a position. As seen below, rather than waiting for the truck to clear the driveway the cyclist attempts to make his left turn regardless of the potential consequences.

As seen in this photo the driver of a red car is entering the commercial driveway and the presence of the cyclist could have been obscured by the dimensions of the white truck.

In the photo below the cyclist can be seen just at the left edge of the Ford Escape such that he has successfully made the left turn across the curb lane. But now he must squeeze through the remaining traffic in the other lane.

In this view the cyclist can be seen at the very left edge of the Ford Escape. The cyclist has managed to cross the eastbound lane of Trafalgar and must now find a way to cross the westbound lane which is congested with motor vehicle traffic.

Below it can be seen that the cyclist enters the centre, turn-lane as he looks over his shoulder for a gap within which he can cross the through lane. This middle turn lane is designated left turns in both directions such that, pulling out of a blind area the cyclist may not detect that a vehicle could be travelling toward him in that left-turn lane while his head is turned.

While looking backwards and travelling in the left-turn lane of Trafalgar the cyclist may not appreciate that motor vehicles could be travelling toward him in that turn lane. When pulling out of an area of limited visibility he could prevent drivers from detecting him.

As shown below, the cyclist eventually determines that he can cross in front of the traffic that his is looking at and proceeds into the through lane. But this is a sequence of actions that is dangerous. Sequences like these repeat themselves on a regular basis on busy city streets because cyclists do not ride within the same rules and expectations as drivers of motor vehicles.

Here the cyclist begins to enter the westbound lane of Trafalgar as he proceeds westbound. While motor vehicles could also perform such actions the difference is that this cyclist does not have the acceleration capability of a motor vehicle thus it takes him longer to cross the lane. He must rely on the recognition of the motor vehicle drivers of his limited acceleration.

At times cyclists ride as if they are pedestrians and at others they ride as if they operating a motor vehicle. These differences need to be documented and understood.

Discussion

New, protected, cycling lanes have been constructed at several locations throughout the City of London. At many locations these lanes are occupied by very few cyclists. Drivers of motor vehicles are not blind to this. In the minds of drivers the space that was originally provided to their motor vehicles is now being taken away for a seemingly useless purpose. In this time where we need the cooperation of all users of our road systems negative impressions about cycling infrastructure does not help.

This is a view of Wavell Street, looking west, approaching Vancouver Street. A newly built, protected cycling lane is present on both sides of the road. Until recently these cycling lanes have seen low usage. Connections are needed to this isolated segment of cycling lanes to increase usage.

A discussion needs to be maintained about why cycling infrastructure needs to be expanded but also there must be an immediate process of determining how more persons can be encouraged to ride their cycle on these new lanes and what is preventing them from doing so.

In London there are major problems with a disconnect of cycling lanes. The City has the mindset that building cycling infrastructure is like building or upgrading a road. Planning is prepared, a contract is given and improvements are made within the short distance of the contract. Thus a cycling lane is built for several kilometres and then that lane suddenly terminates, often leaving cyclists in dangerous areas.

There is also a problem with cycling convenience. Cyclists must be able to travel to some destination and be satisfied that they can park their cycle in a safe location where it will not be stolen or damaged. Thus secure lockers for cycles is an extremely important item. Currently there are very few secure cycle lock-ups in the City.

Cycling convenience also means that we need to address the large percentage of the public who would rather drive in a safe and comfortable automobile rather than face the difficulty of pedalling, of being exposed to rain and similar inconveniences. Some segments of the population are physically challenged by riding a cycle. There are many impatient cycling activists who believe that the best approach is to force drivers to ride cycles by making it more inconvenience and difficult to drive motor vehicles. This approach can often alienate those who might be on the cusp of exploring cycling but become angered by the restriction of their freedom to chose as they please. A better approach is to make cycling more enjoyable such that drivers of motor vehicles will want to buy and ride cycles.

Our ultimate objective is to replace motor vehicles with active transportation, not just for pleasure but for those business trips, or shopping or transporting cargo. As such many of us do not see a connection between pleasure and business. Yet there is an important connection. Pleasure trips are those that provide the initial incentive to try cycling. Once the habit is developed cyclists can come to understand that cycling does not need to be confined to pleasant trips to a park, but real work, at a cheap price, can be accomplished. So maintaining opportunities for pleasure trips can lead to the ultimate goal of replacing the automobile.

There are many examples of rural trails in southern Ontario that could provide cyclists with a motivation to explore. This view of the Caledon Trail from the fall of 2021 shows off its beauty and peacefulness. The trail runs from north of Georgetown to Tottenham, a round trip of about 78 kilometres.

While riding along the Caledon trail one never knows what wild creatures one might meet. This view shows a wild one who insists on displaying a small tree to a passing cyclist.
A stop in Tottenham along the Caledon trail can involve a peaceful lunch along the banks of a small creek.

Creating and maintaining facilities for pleasurable cycling must include the understanding that “variety is the spice of life”. This means that even pleasurable trips can become monotonous and boring if there are only a limited number of paths/trails on which to ride. Although the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) in London is a great facility, those who ride it frequently can become bored with following the same route, day in and day out. I have heard this expression from some riders in our group who have bowed out of riding on the TVP and prefer to take to the highways surrounding London. While I too am enticed by this possibility I also recognize the increased danger that cyclists are exposed to once they begin riding along the edge of an 80 km/h highway with minimal separation from high speed traffic. But there are options available. There are hidden and/or forgotten trails that can take cyclists outside of London if only someone would provide a minimal amount of capital to make this happen.

For example, an old rail line used to travel between north-west London and Grand Bend. This land was sold and transferred mainly to farm properties. But the old rail bed still remains. It would not take much capital to reactivate this line into a cycling trail.

In another example, the London-Port Stanley rail line runs north/south between London and St Thomas. This could also be transformed into a cycling path. This provides an interesting option as a trail already exists in St Thomas that heads about 5 km/h westward near Fingal Line. This is another old railway bed that extends all the way to Essex County. It passes through many smaller towns such as Shedden, Dutton, Rodney, Ridgetown, etc. It would be an economic boost to these small communities if cyclists visited their shops and restaurants. It would also provide a very long trail for cyclists to enter at designated trail heads where they please.

This view of the abandoned railway line in Dutton Ontario shows that not much is needed to upgrade the line to accommodate cyclists.
This is another view of the abandoned railway line in Dutton Ontario. A small amount of capital provided by the Province of Ontario could develop this into a money-making venture that connects cyclists and the smaller communities between St Thomas and Essex County.

The creation of cycling trails that exit the boundaries of the City of London are not a large incentive to City officials who may be interested in keeping cyclists tied to the City boundaries. Yet such trails can also reduce the number of serious and fatal collisions that occur on nearby highways. By providing more opportunities for cyclists to travel on pleasure trips this creates the interest in cycling and this is needed to get the public interested in using their cycles for other reasons.

Post-Note

This article was originally published on the Gorski Consulting website on November 20, 2022. For an unexplained reason, shortly after it was published, it disappeared from the Gorski Consulting website. My internet provider could not explain why this happened. Fortunately a fairly-well developed draft of the article remained and this enabled me to add portions of the lost article to the draft from what I could remember. So the present article is somewhat similar to the originally-posted article. This occurrence is a reminder that the internet is a strange creation where many “bad duds” are constantly doing bad things, preventing honest exchange of ideas and information.

Red Hill Valley Parkway Judicial Inquiry Completes Witness Phase – Review of Previous Scandals

This view of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was taken in 2018 before repaving was begun. Many questions remain regarding the actions of Hamilton’s staff and if someone hid a report that indicated the road surface was substandard.

The Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP) Judicial Inquiry has now completed the witness phase of its proceedings. Over 15,400 pages of testimony was logged from dozens of witnesses. The second phase is promised to be much shorter as it will provide summaries and opinions from the small number of Inquiry participants.

The Inquiry was requested by Hamilton’s politicians in the spring of 2019 after it was discovered that a technical report authored by Tradewind Scientific, reporting an inferior level of skid resistance on the RHVP, had become lost, or was deliberately buried. Some delays to the proceedings of the Inquiry were attributed to the Covid pandemic. The credit for uncovering the missing Tradewind report has to go to a number of professional journalists, but mostly to the Hamilton Spectator Newspaper. And there have been several other scandals.

Past Scandals

In early 2013 the City of Hamilton was rocked by news that 29 employees of its Public Works department were fired following an investigation of their illegal practices. There were allegations that these activities reached as far up in the department as supervisors and superintendents. The City’s Manager at the time, Chris Murray, said police would be contacted but no further information became available about further developments. A Hamilton Spectator Newspaper article written in January of 2013 indicated:

The city is investigating allegations that not only the front-line public works employees, but also supervisors and superintendents, were involved in the dishonesty, including the selling of city asphalt. City manager Chris Murray, who attended Bratina’s speech, said the situation is already starting to trigger questions of whether similar offences are occurring in other departments. He said it’s logical to think that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The fact that something like this happens creates concern right across the organization.”

Thus this scandal would have been an opportunity for the City of Hamilton to conduct further investigations about the operations of its Public Works Department, possibly directing how the actions of all employees should follow proper procedures. It is not clear what further actions were taken.

In another scandal in 2019 the Hamilton Spectator Newspaper wrote about the City of Hamilton’s failure to inspect sign structures along the RHVP. They reported that the City had no inspection reports between the years 2012 to 2017. In a Spectator article published on August 16, 2019 the following was stated:

“While the city has said it does not believe the public was at risk due to the delayed sign structure repairs, one civil engineering professor reached by The Spectator called the listed deficiencies concerning.

“By exceeding the recommended time to repair, Hamilton increased the risk of serious harm to the public and to motorists,” said Ahmed Shalaby, municipal infrastructure chair at the University of Manitoba, who reviewed the 2012 and 2017 inspection summaries.

“Any of these (problems), left unrepaired, could eventually lead to failure of a sign structure or components.”

It’s rare for a big metal sign structure to fall down – but it has happened.”

As an example of what could happen, on April 27, 2021 a large overhead sign fell onto the surface of the QEW at Nocola Testa Boulevard. The sign came down on an SUV, killing its driver. The sign was knocked over by excavations at a construction site. It indicates the dangers that exist if an overhead sign were to fall onto a highway and how important it is to conduct inspections of sign anchorages. Again little information is available about what was done to examine the actions of Hamilton’s Public Works department.

In another scandal, billions of litres of sewage was found to have leaked over a period of four-and–half years into Hamilton’s Chedoke Creek and this leak was not disclosed for over a year. The Spectator reported:

The Spectator revealed city council knew about the full duration and volume of the spill from an overflow holding tank into the creek, which flows into Cootes Paradise, since January 2019 but decided to keep the information secret.

After citizens complained about a stench in July 2018, the city told the public a spill had occurred and put up signs, but the full details were kept under wraps until The Spectator reported on leaked confidential reports.

Councillors have said they opted for secrecy to protect the taxpayers from potential regulatory fines and litigation amid an ongoing provincial investigation into the spill, which has been attributed in part to a gate on a holding tank that was left partially open for four-and-a-half years.

Staff and outside legal counsel advised council against publicizing the estimated 24-billion-litre volume and more-than-four-year span, as well as releasing consulting reports.

The rationale was that doing so could expose the city to financial risk amid a Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks investigation with potential fines of as high as $6 million.

There is a fine line between the claim of protecting a municipality from litigation and hiding those politicians and City staff from accountability to the public they ought to serve.

The Spectator also reported that one of the City’s councillors, Lloyd Ferguson, wanted an investigation into who leaked the documents that led to the revelation of the spill. The Spectator noted:

“City officials previously refused to confirm that councillors directed senior staff to track down the source of the leaked documents. People have speculated whether the leaker was a member of council or city staffer with access to the confidential reports. Regardless, the fact that the information was hidden by council sparked a gigantic public outcry over the lack of transparency.”

The City’s mayor, Fred Eisenberger, also supported the decision to keep documents and the spill secret. As reported by the Spectator:

“Eisenberger says he stands by the decision to keep detailed information about the spill confidential until the environment ministry’s investigation is complete based on expert legal advice and the obligation to protect taxpayers from potential penalties and lawsuits.”

Not surprisingly Hamilton’s risk management office and external legal counsel have been involved in advising the City’s staff and politicians to maintain secrecy. This was also made clear in the testimony provided by witnesses at the RHVP Inquiry.

RHVP Inquiry – Going Forward

Very few of those outside of the RHVP Inquiry participants would have the opportunity to examine all the evidence in detail. Not only are there over 15400 pages of testimony, there are also numerous exhibits, including a number of long reports that would need to be reviewed. For example, of the 218 exhibits, the first 10 are identified below along with their length in pages.

  1. Overview Report – 66 pages
  2. Hamilton Governance & Structure – 50 pages
  3. RHVP Construction – 82 pages
  4. RHVP Design & Geometry – 17 pages
  5. Ontario MOT Friction Testing – 200 pages
  6. RHVP Safety Studies 2008-2012 – 48 pages
  7. Cima Report 2013 – 153 pages
  8. Cima Report 2015 – 204 pages
  9. Pavement Evaluations 2017-2018 – 103 pages
  10. Events Leading to Discovery of Tradewind Report – 370 pages

These first 10 exhibits contain 1293 pages. It is impractical to expect anyone to examine the rest of the 208 exhibits if they contain a similar amount of detail. At some point there needs to be a reliable and unbiased entity that can condense all of these details into a more manageable summary.

One has to be aware that those who wish to hide information from the public can use unexpected methods to accomplish their task. The most direct way is to simply refuse to release the specific information. However a more indirect way is to flood the atmosphere with an enormous amount of detail, effectively hiding the relevant information within this very large forest of irrelevance. Because the review of such massive stores of information is daunting most entities would give up before finding the relevant information that is needed. This method of hiding information becomes more effective in the modern age when very large amounts of data is stored and capable of being released. It is hoped that this is not the process being engaged in the RHVP Inquiry, however it remains to be seen how and if the very large amounts of detail will be condensed to make it practically available to the general public.

Has Road Safety in Ontario Been Deteriorating?

What is going on with injury and fatality causation in Ontario? Has there been a recent deterioration of road safety? How do we know?

In the U.S. the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported earlier this year that traffic fatalities likely increased by 10.5 percent in 2021 versus 2020, which is a 16-year high. Some of the categories in which fatalities increased the most are shown in the following text taken from the NHTSA report.

 …traffic fatalities in the following categories showed relatively large increases in 2021, as compared to 2020: 

  • Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes up 16% 
  • Fatalities on urban roads up 16% 
  • Fatalities among drivers 65 and older up 14% 
  • Pedestrian fatalities up 13% 
  • Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck up 13% 
  • Daytime fatalities up 11% 
  • Motorcyclist fatalities up 9% 
  • Bicyclist fatalities up 5% 
  • Fatalities in speeding-related crashes up 5% 
  • Fatalities in police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes up 5% “

In reaction to this data the U.S. Transportation Secretary stated “We face a crisis on America’s roadways…”. Those are large words.

Ontario Data

Historically Ontario has not been isolated from the U.S., we share similar cultures, economies, vehicles and roadway systems. Are similarly dramatic deteriorations also occurring in Ontario? What data exists to determine one way or another?

Ontario’s Road Safety Annual Report (ORSAR) has been published by the Ontario government for decades and it should provide an accurate account of the road safety situation in the Province. Checking the Ontario Transportation Ministry website shows that the latest complete version of the ORSAR is for the year 2019. Only preliminary statistics are currently available for the years 2020 and 2021. Here are some general facts in those reports.

Fatal Collisions: 2018=556, 2019=545, 2020=505, 2021=499

Persons Killed: 2018=602, 2019=584, 2020=535, 2021=541

Personal Injury Collisions: 2018=36,331, 2019=33,602, 2020=23,184, 2021=22,573

Persons Injured: 2018=50,973, 2019=47,027, 2020=31,538, 2021=30,715

Based upon the above facts it would seem that Ontario is immune to the traffic catastrophes of the U.S. – but are we?

An article (July 3, 2022) by Robert Williams of the Kitchener Record newspaper described how the documentation of collisions in the Waterloo area has become “complicated”. In part he reported:

“With the addition of the Waterloo Accident Support Services International – who now takes care of nonmajor collisions – the way police count collisions is changing. For example, in two-car collisions where both parties fill out a report, police used to count those reports as two separate collisions. Now, those reports are tracked, merged and counted as one.

Due to the changes in its data management processes, Const. Andre Johnson said the 2020 overall numbers cannot be easily compared to the prior years.”

How many other municipalities have changed their way of collision reporting? Does the above mean that the data in recent ORSARs is not easily comparable to other years?

An interesting revelation is how the Ontario Provincial Police work with Ontario’s news media to announce various collision data. For example, on May 14, 2020, the OPP released collision data which was reported by major news outlets in the London area including the London Free Press, CTV News London and CFPL Radio 980 News (Global News). The London Free Press article was entitled “Middlesex OPP Target Unsafe Drivers as Region Ranks Third in Ontario for Road Fatalities”. This article publicized the OPP assertion, from the previous 10 year’s worth of data, that Middlesex County was third highest in the Province of Ontario with respect to fatalities, surpassed only by “Toronto area and Burlington”.

CTV’s article was entitled “Middlesex Roads Among Deadliest in Ontario” and the article indicated “While the numbers are concerning, they also don’t seem to be improving”. They also provided a misleading comment that “So far in 2020 there have been five fatalities in Middlesex, an increase of 67 per cent over 2019”. Thus there were 3 fatalities in 2019 and 5 in 2020 and this is the grounds for informing the public that there was a massive 67 per cent increase in fatal collisions.

The Global News article was entitled “OPP Report Increase in Fatal Collisions from 2020 Compared to 2019”. It reported that “As of May 4, 71 people have died in fatal collision on OPP roads in 2020, compared to this time last year there were 61 deaths”.

Whether the data high-lighted by news media accurately depicts a worsening safety scenario on OPP patrolled road cannot be known by anyone except the OPP themselves. However some estimate of that accuracy can be gained from examining the 10 year period (2010 through 2019) via the data reported in ORSAR.

For example, the data from Middlesex County is compared in the tables below with several other municipal jurisdictions (Halton, Niagara and Waterloo) that have similar population bases.

Nothing unusual appears to exist in the Middlesex County data that would suggest that its roads “…are among deadliest in Ontario”. It can be observed that Burlington (which is in Halton Region) appears to have lower fatality values than any of the other three jurisdictions yet the OPP claimed that Burlington’s roads were worse than Middlesex. The appearance that Middlesex has slightly higher numbers of fatal collisions and fatalities has not be controlled for the likelihood that Middlesex is a more rural area where fatal collisions are more likely to occur. Travel in the other three jurisdictions could be comprised of more urban travel where fatal collisions and fatalities are less likely.

In another article authored by Jonathan Juha of the London Free Press (“Deaths Spike in London Region Roads This Year, OPP Warn”, September 2, 2020) OPP statistics of fatalities in the London region appeared to be alarming as noted by the following quote: “Middlesex OPP are sounding the alarm with deadly car crashes up nearly 40 per cent from this time last year”. Yet we know the final fatality numbers in Ontario for 2019 and 2020 because those are reported in the ORSARs. ORSAR reported that in 2019 there were 545 fatal collisions and in 2020 there were 505. So the numbers of fatal collisions in Ontario in 2020 were actually down compared to 2019. So the final Ontario data would appear to be completely different from the OPP data. Was there something miraculous taking place in Middlesex County in 2020 that did not occur in the rest of Ontario? We will not know until Ontario releases its full 2020 ORSAR data which will contain the details of the Middlesex County data.

The COVID Effect

A number of news media articles were published during these Covid years which suggested that a dramatic change was taking place in Ontario’s road safety.

In an article by Ryan Rocca, published by Global News on April 15, 2020 Toronto City officials were quoted as saying that Toronto had seen a 200 per cent increase in stunt driving. The article stated further:

“In a news release Wednesday, officials said as traffic volumes have dropped, from March 15 to 31, there was a 35 per cent increase in speeding tickets and an almost 200 per cent jump in stunt driving incidents compared to the same time last year.

“Taking advantage of low traffic volumes by speeding or stunt driving is not only illegal but threatens the lives of those around you and places an unnecessary pressure on our health-care system,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.”

However, if there were fewer collisions this could free up the time of a number of police officers who could now focus of monitoring traffic and giving out speeding tickets. Could that be an explanation for the higher numbers of stunt driving infractions?

In an article posted by Chris Fox of CP24 News on April 29, 2020 it was reported that there were “…largely empty roads across the GTA” yet police report that there has been “…nearly a 600 per cent rise in stunt driving charges”. And the number of collisions investigated by the OPP in early 2020 was “…down 62 per cent from 2019”.

Yet ORSAR reported that Estimated Vehicle Kilometres Travelled in Ontario were 145,000 (in millions) in 2019 and 146,832 in 2020. So how did the roads become “largely empty” across the GTA if more kilometers were ridden?

And in another article authored by CBC News on October 10, 2019, it was reported that “Police say speed is the leading factor in vehicle fatalities”. So is it not strange that a 600 per cent increase in stunt driving in 2020 should lead to no appreciable increase in traffic fatalities between 2019 and 2020 as indicated in the ORSAR?

Discussion

Unusual data is being reported by police, news media and the official Ontario Road Safety Annual Report such that many contradictions appear to exist. While the U.S. is reporting alarmingly high collision statistics Ontario is not. The OPP continue to report large increases in fatal collisions and fatalities yet those do not exist in the latest ORSAR data.

Colborne at St James Traffic Study – Results from Session #2

“Orchestrating” a ride along Colborne Street, a southbound cyclist approaches the intersection at St James Street in London, Ontario during the rush hour on September 30, 2022.

Results have now been tabulated for Session #2 of traffic observations on Colborne Street at St James Street in London, Ontario. This testing was conducted on September 30, 2022 for two hours between 1607 and 1807 hours. A total of 443 northbound motor vehicles and 19 northbound cyclists were documented during this session. The results are as follows.

Session #2 – The Results

The characteristics and speed of northbound cyclists observed during the documentations are shown in the table below.

Looking at the 443 documented motor vehicles, their average speed was 42.49 km/h in the south road segment (i.e. between 15 and 65 metres north of St James Street) and 44.13 km/h in the north segment (i.e. 65 to 115 metres north of St James). While these averages provide some clarity the details reveal more complex issues.

Firstly, the table below compares the frequencies of speed between the south and north road segments. Generally, the speeds seemed to be compacted into a narrower range in the south segment while those speeds along the north segment were slightly more scattered, with both lower and higher speeds.

The table below shows the relationship between motor vehicle volume and speed at 10-minute intervals while comparing the south road segment with the north road segment.

For example, in the first 10 minutes of observations (1607 to 1617 hours) 50 northbound vehicles passed through the observation area. The average speed of those vehicles passing through the south road segment was 39.96 km/h. The average speed of motor vehicles passing through the north road segment was 41.28 km/h. We can also note that in the first hour of observations the average speed of vehicles travelling through the south road segment was 41.95 km/h while the average through the north segment was 42.83 km/h.

There was a marked increase in motor vehicle speeds in the last 40 minutes of observations (noted by the red colour of the values in the above table). This would be a time between 1727 and 1807 hours. It can be noted that during this 40 minutes the average,10-minute, traffic volume was reduced to 32 vehicles whereas the average for the previous hour and twenty minutes was 39.4 vehicles.

It was noted that many traffic disruptions developed from the intersection at St James Street. Many motor vehicles entered Colborne Street from St James but also many motor vehicles exited Colborne at this intersection. As a result some consideration had to be given to the difference between “free flow” traffic on Colborne versus “non-free flow” traffic.

Of the 225 northbound motor vehicles that were observed in the first hour of documentation it was noted that 167 of them experienced “free flow” motion and their average speed was 43.14 km/h in the south segment and 43.54 km/h in the north segment. Of the 218 northbound motor vehicles that were observed in the second hour of documentation it was noted that 138 of them experienced “free flow” motion and their average speed was 44.97 km/h in the south segment and 47.28 km/h in the north segment. The reduced number of vehicles experiencing free flow in second hour should have produced slower average speeds yet this did not occur, particularly in the north road segment. So It may suggest something different about the speed of traffic in the latter portion of this testing.

A flavour for the types of obstructions to traffic on Colborne can be gained by examining the smaller sample of 57 northbound vehicles that experienced “non-free-flow” motion in the first hour of documentations and these are shown in the long table below. The observations high-lighted in yellow represent vehicles that entered Colborne from St James. Since documentation began only 15 metres north of the St James intersection the speed of these vehicles would have to be low as they would just be completing their turns. So this is the reason why we determined that they could not be counted as free flow vehicles.

As can be seen in the above table there were many reasons why the free flow of northbound vehicles did not occur. Another major reason was that pedestrians crossed at the pedestrian crossing located on the south side of the intersection with St James. As such northbound vehicles had to come to a stop and this caused their speeds to be slower as they passed through the south road segment.

A surprising revelation occurred as we were present monitoring the video cameras near the St James intersection. We observed unusual behaviors by many drivers who seemed to be confused by whether they had the right-of-way. For example, drivers on both roadways appeared to believe that this was a 4-way stop. This was evidenced on several occasions as drivers on St James drove into traffic on Colborne as if they expected that the Colborne traffic was going to stop at the intersection. Similarly we observed several drivers on Colborne Street come to a stop at St James for no reason, as if they believed that there was a stop sign for their direction of travel. These unusual behaviours resulted in several close calls where collisions were barely avoided.

Evaluation of the Need For A Protected Cycling Lane

The results from Session #2 showed that 443 northbound motor vehicles were documented over a 2-hour period. Due to the extensive time commitment we determined it was not realistic to conduct the additional documentation of southbound traffic. It is possible to simply double the northbound observations and conclude (with some error) that the traffic volume was about 886 vehicles in two hours, or about 443 vehicles per hour. A common way of estimating AADT is to multiply the peak hour of traffic by 10. This method does not always provide a good estimate on some roadways. However if our results were multiplied by 10 then we would arrive at an estimated AADT of about 4430 vehicles. This is not far off from the AADT posted on the City of London map of traffic volumes for this location. So we could use this estimate in the graph shown in Book 18 of the Ontario Traffic Manual. That graph is copied below.

Next we need to consider the appropriate speed to use in the above graph. As seen in the above graph we have inserted the vertical line representing the estimated traffic volume. We have also inserted the box in red which matches operating speeds between 45 and 50 km/h. Although the graph advises using the posted speed of the road (which would be 40 km/h) footnote #1 indicates the following:

“Operating speeds are assumed to be similar to posted speeds. If evidence suggests this is not the case, practitioners may consider using 85th percentile speeds…”

Our observations indicate that vehicle speeds are higher than this posted speed. In Session #1 we determined that the 85th Percentile Speed was about 51-52 km/h even when “non-free-flow” vehicles are included. The identical analysis with the data from Session #2 revealed an 85th Percentile Speed between 49.0 and 49.3 km/h. So there is some reason to believe that the speed to be used in the above graph should be close to 50 km/h, or slightly greater.

Book 18 suggests that use of the graph is just a starting point for determining the correct cycling infrastructure. A list of heuristics, or rules, in further consideration of selecting appropriate cycling infrastructure is copied in the two charts below.

An issue noted at the Colborne Street site is the existence of a bus route while the City’s decision is to narrow the travel lanes to just 3.3 metres in width. A lane that is 3.3 metres wide is too narrow for typical bus or large truck travel when accompanied by unprotected cycling lanes.

The rules also fail to recognize the danger of the unsignalized intersection of Colborne Street at St James. This is a unique circumstance where drivers are confused about their right-of-way. Although no analysis has been conducted at this time our observations during the peaks hours between 1600 and 1800 hours indicate that there are many motor vehicles using the intersection both from Colborne and from St James.

Other matters need further study, such as the number of pedestrians using the area. Our observations suggest that the number of pedestrians is relatively high.

A third videotaping session was completed on October 5, 2022 however no analysis has been done at this time. There is considerable time required to conduct these analyses manually and without any voluntary help. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help with the analysis can contact Zyg Gorski at the e-mail address: [email protected]

Colborne at St James Traffic Study – Results from Session #1

The area of the video documentation of traffic on Colborne Street commenced from 15 metres north of the north curb of St James Street.

The first Session of the Colborne Street Traffic Study has been completed and partial results will be reported in this article.

Background

in the late summer of 2022 the City of London Ontario announced that it would extent the cycling lane on Colborne Street north of Oxford Street to Cheapside Street. A protected cycling lane had previously been installed on Colborne south of Oxford. However the City proposed that the new cycling lane north of Oxford should not be protected. Instead the lane should be designated by a painted white line only. Cyclist and some members of the public objected to this decision as it would cause unsafe conditions for cyclists. Gorski Consulting was approached by interested members of the public whether a traffic study could be performed to evaluate the issue. As a result a series of video documentation sessions was commenced. The first Session was conducted on September 20, 2022. The results obtained from this session will be the focus of this article.

The City of London reported that its decision was in compliance with the guidelines offered in Book 18, Cycling Facilities, of the Ontario Traffic Manual. In part Book 18 provided a graph relating vehicle speed and volume that could be used to estimate what kind of cycling lanes should be provided. This graph from the June 2021 version of Book 18 is copied below.

This graph is slightly different from pervious versions. For example a similar graph from the 2014 Version of Book 18 is copied below. One of the differences between the two graphs is that in 2014 the “85th Percentile Motor Vehicle Operating Speed” formed the vertical axis whereas in the newer version the vertical axis is the “Posted Speed Limit”. In the text of the June 2021 manual the authors advise that the 85th Percentile Speed can be used when data suggests that the operating speed is higher than the posted speed.

In speaking briefly with a representative of the City of London at an information meeting it was stated that the City of London did not conduct any specific studies on Colborne Street and mainly relied upon the traffic volume in their decision to select the painted cycling lane. A handout provided at the meeting indicated that the traffic volume in the corridor was between 4000 and 6400 vehicles per day.

A copy of the traffic volumes taken from the City of London map is shown below. This shows that the traffic volume (AADT) between Oxford and St James is 6500, whereas the volume between St James and Cheapside is 4500. So there is a marked reduction is traffic north of St James. It suggests there is likely exit of Colborne Street by many northbound drivers onto St James. And there could also be a likely entrance from St James southbound onto Colborne Street. Either way it suggests there is a considerable interaction of traffic at the Colborne and St James intersection.

While the above graphs are not the only information needed to select a proper cycling facility they represent major inputs in the process. Knowing the specifics of the operating speed and traffic volume are key points in using the guidelines. As such video documentation at the Colborne site would provide valuable data the selection process.

Session #1 of Colborne – St James Traffic Study

Selecting the location of the study needed some consideration as the operating speed should be documented in a location where vehicles are moving at a constant, uninterrupted rate. Selection of a location where vehicles are stopped, turning, accelerating or braking does not provide a true indication of the speed of vehicles on the road. The best location appeared to be away from the busy area at Oxford Street and also away from the end of the proposed cycling lane at Cheapside Street. It also needed to be away from the motions occurring at the St James intersection.

The final decision placed the documentation just north of St James. The Google Maps view below shows an overall view of the Colborne and St James intersection. The “Zero” location of the documentation is shown as 15 metres north of the north curb of St James. It can be noted that a pedestrian crossing existed on the south side of the intersection and this caused an interruption in the normal traffic flow. Also a bus stop was located further south which also caused some interruption.

Speeds and traffic volumes were documented over two, 50-metre segments north of St James. At this initial stage it was decided that only northbound traffic would be documented and that southbound data would be obtained from analysis of the video at a later date.

The Google Maps view below is looking northbound on Colborne Street from just south of the intersection with St James. The northbound bus stop can be seen on the right side of the view (blue sign on pole) and the pedestrian crossing is also visible in the background.

The next Google Maps view below is looking southbound from just north of the St James intersection. There is a fire hall located on the south-west quadrant of the intersection. Also note the rather wide boulevards located on each side of Colborne. Our measurements indicate that the east boulevard is 5.2 metres whereas the west one is 4.9 metres.

It can also be noted that the southbound lane is much wider than the northbound lane. Our measurements indicate that the southbound lane is 6.1 metres wide whereas the northbound lane is 3.85 metres. This difference is because parking is allowed along the west side of Colborne. In the handout provided by the City (copied below) the proposal is that the west side parking lane will be removed. Two 3.3-metre wide lanes will be created for motor vehicle traffic and then 1.7-metre wide cycling lanes will be created on each side of Colborne. It would appear that the boulevards (i.e. painting strips) will remain as they are without any widening of the road.

With the existence of a city-transit bus route there is concern about the proposed 3.3-metre-wide lanes which are narrower than the 3.5-metres, or wider, that would typically be seen. A city transit bus would be in the neighbourhood of 2.6 metres in width and this would cause a gap of only about 35 centimetres between the side of the bus and the left and right edges of the lane. Given the propensity for motor vehicles to stray from a perfectly aligned position in a lane and given the similar propensity for cyclists to wander left and right as they balance the cyclists, there is an increased likelihood of possible contact between these units. Even slight contact of a cyclist or cycle can create considerable problems to the safety of the rider.

Session #1 – The Results

The image below is a frame taken from the Premiere video project showing the synchronized output of six video cameras. It can be recalled that average speeds are obtained by noting the time taken for a vehicle to travel over a 50-metre distance segment. It is a simple process to take the 50-metre segment and divide it by that time to arrive at an average speed in metres-per-second (m/s). Metres-per-second are then multiplied by 3.6 to transfer to kilometres-per-hour (km/h).

Documentations commenced at 1020 hours on September 20, 2022 over a period of one hour.

The table below shows the results of the documentations of northbound cyclists. Only 15 northbound cyclists were observed during this time. Only three of them were females. The fastest speed was at Observation #8 where a male rode a road bike at an average of just over 28 km/h. The slowest speed was at Observation #7 where a female rode at an average speed between 14.8 and 15.7 km/h.

The overall average speeds of the cyclists was just over 22 km/h in both segments of roadway. This is somewhat high compared to speeds on other cycling facilities such as the Thames Valley Parkway and none of the 15 cyclists appeared to be riding an e-bike. Yet it is not unusual for situations of uninterrupted travel where cyclists do not need to slow for pedestrians and other obstructions.

The next table shows the results of the motor vehicle volumes and speeds. Each cell shows the observation number followed by the speed in km/h up to two decimals. As an example, the first observation fell into the 41-45 km/h column and can be seen at the very bottom of the table. The “1-44.75” means that the precise speed of the vehicle in Observation #1 was 44.75 km/h.

A total of 136 observations of motor vehicles was made. Eighty-five percent of 136 is 115. So in determining the 85th Percentile Speed we need to find the value of the 115th observation. it is a simple process of adding up the frequencies in the columns up to the speed range of 46-50 km/h, arriving at a cumulative frequency (4+4+30+34+38 = 110) of 110 observations. We now need to find the 5th slowest observation in the column of speeds 51-55 km/h. That 5th observation shows a speed of 51.10 km/h and therefore this is the 85th Percentile Speed.

A similar process was conducted for the second road segment, between the 50-metre and 100-metre markers. This analysis showed that the 115th observation contained a speed of 51.87 km/h and so this was the 85th Percentile Speed for that distance segment.

Not enough analysis has been completed at this time to obtain an estimate of the motor vehicle traffic volume since only northbound vehicles were documented. A temporary (though possibly errored) estimate could be obtained by multiplying the 136 observations by 2. Thus we might estimate that a total of 272 motor vehicles passed by the area in one hour. If this was the peak hour then we might estimate the AADT by multiplying by 10, resulting in an estimated AADT of 2720. However the counts were taken between 1020 and 1120 hours and this would clearly not be the peak hour. So based on the present data we can only say that the AADT at the site is higher than 2720.

Another approach is to accept the City of London traffic volume data which was estimated to be about 4500 AADT. Combining this with the 85ht Percentile speeds (about 51 to 52 km/h) we can look at the graph of speed and volume prepared in Book 18, shown previously.

Two additional Sessions have already been conducted on September 30th and October 5th and the data from these Sessions are in the process of being developed.

Session #2 on September 30th was undertaken for two hours, between 1612 and 1812 hours. This session would include the peak hour. At time of writing a total of 443 northbound vehicles have been documented, or about 222 per hour. This is almost twice as many vehicles per hour than an in Session #1. Further details from this Session #2 will be revealed in a separate article shortly.

Colborne at St James Traffic Study Underway

This is a view, taken on October 5, 2022, looking south along Colborne Street toward St James Street in London, Ontario. The video camera shown here is one of several that were positioned within a 130 metre distance to document the speed and volume of traffic on Colborne

Three videotaping sessions have been completed by Gorski Consulting on Colborne Street just north of Oxford Street in London. Sessions were completed on September 20th, September 30th and October 5, 2022.

The impetus for this study was the result of Dr. Colin Evans who contacted me with an inquiry whether I would consider conducting a traffic study on Colborne Street. Details are still unknown but Dr. Evans works with the London Health Sciences Centre and appears to be interested in the decision by the City of London to develop a “paint only” cycling lane along Colborne Street north of Oxford Street in London. A protected cycling lane already exists on Colborne proceeding northward to Oxford however the decision to create an non-protected lane north of Oxford has raised the concerns of some. While I already had thoughts of performing such a study it was Dr. Evans who caused that thought to develop into action.

In the first session which occurred on September 20th, Dr. Evans also invited another person who has been interested in cycling safety in London. Andrew Hunniford, the manager/partner of the London Bicycle Café also attended. This was our first meeting and we got through introductions quickly before the videotaping commenced.

Since this inaugural meeting Dr. Evans indicated that he had arranged to have a number of other doctors to join in the study. So we now have the beginnings of a group who are interested in gathering objective data. I hope to be conducting some training sessions so the participants can become familiar with the procedures. Once this occurs it may be that the time-consuming process of conducting the video analysis will be sped up. Preliminary results from these sessions are likely to be posted on this website within the week. Please stay tuned to these developments.

Traffic Study Commenced at Colborne Street North of Oxford in London Ontario

This image is taken from the City of London handout describing the proposed painted cycling lane that will be created on Colborne Street between Oxford and Cheapside Streets. It can be noted that there are boulevards (“Planting strips”), each over 5 metres wide, presently existing on each side of the road and these are expected to exist after the project is completed.

Discussions developed recently when the City of London announced its intentions to extent the Colborne Street cycling track north from Oxford Street to Cheapside Street. The criticisms of the plan appear to centre around the City’s intention to create a painted cycling lane rather than the protected one that exists south of Oxford.

The City indicated that the painted cycling path “…avoids costly construction of road widening and its related impacts to things like trees, hydro poles and properties”. The City also indicated that the plan was consistent with design guidance provided in Ontario’s Book 18 of the Ontario Traffic Manual. The City also indicated that protected cycling lanes will to installed for streets with higher traffic speeds an volumes. Yet, when a representative of the City was asked whether any specific traffic studies were conducted that would reveal traffic speeds, it was denied that any such study was conducted or available.

The proposed cycling lanes on Colborne will allow the continued existence of broad boulevards on each side of the road.

This is a view looking north along the east side of Colborne Street just north of St James Street. The boulevard (“planting strip”) located here is over 5 metres wide. There could be plenty of room to widen the road and still keep a wide boulevard. Note that the trees are not near the road edge and the only replacement would be of the utility poles. Unlike the City’s suggestion, the properties of owners would see little effect by the widening. Thus there is plenty of room here to create a protected cycling lane.

A figure taken from Ontario’s Book 18 is shown below. It describes how the level of cycling facilities might be planned by noting the speed and volume of vehicles on the road of interest.

Presumably the City of London considered this nomograph when selecting the painted cycle path option. But if the City did not conduct a specific study to obtain data on speed for example, how could they use this nomograph properly?

It is an interesting question. But it has been observed on a number of previous occasions that the City denies that it has any specific data on these issues. And one cannot know because the City is not obliged to be clear to the public on such issues.

As a result Gorski Consulting has decided to conduct a study on Colborne Street to obtain base data to evaluate whether the painted cycling lane is the best option. Stay tuned as these matters develop.

Following The Chaos of A Detour – Part 3

The creation of a detour that involves cyclist traffic needs to take into consideration the typical behaviour of cyclists as well as their capabilities. This observation has been demonstrated in the creation of a detour around the construction at the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) in London, Ontario.

The TVP is a busy and popular multi-use pathway that meanders through London, generally following the banks of its Thames River. The area of construction was located just north-west of the City’s downtown. The map below shows the area of construction as well as the route of the detour. Several areas of concern were noted along this route. In particular, three areas are highlighted in the map: 1.) a left turn from Ann Street onto the busy Talbot Street, 2.) a passage through the narrow Canadian Pacific Railway underpass just south of Oxford Street, and 3.) a steep downgrade of Grosvenor Street into the busy parking lot at Gibbons Park. Two previous articles have discussed the first two areas of concern.

The present article will focus of the last of the dangers: the downslope of Grosvenor Street into the parking lot of Gibbons Park.

Over the years Gorski Consulting has been monitoring the motions of cyclists riding on downslopes of roads and paths in the City of London. The results of these observations have bee posted in a number of earlier articles. The general conclusion drawn from these observations is that downslopes are related to high cyclist speeds and these high cyclists speeds can be a danger, both to riders, and to those who might interact with them. It would not be surprising therefore that we would express concern when the detour of the Thames Valley Parkway created by the City of London would cause cyclists to travel through such a steep downgrade.

Shortly before the detour was in effect on August 22, 2022 measurements were taken of the downslope on Grosvenor Street as it entered into the Gibbons Park parking lot. Using the nearest intersection (St George Street) as a “zero” reference, painted markers were produced at 25-metre intervals and then a digital level was placed on the road at each marker as shown in the two photos below.

This view, looking west, shows a digital carpenter’s level placed at the 100-metre marker which is about half-way down the slope.
In this close-up view of the carpenter’s level placed at the 150-metre marker it can be seen the the level indicates a slope of 13.0 percent. The highest reading of 15.7 percent was obtained at the 175-metre marker.

While cyclists may have used this route on previous occasions, the problem with the detour is that it would increase the volume of cyclists and thereby increase the likelihood that a collision might occur. At the end of the downslope there was a large parking lot. This lot was used by persons attending the popular Gibbons Park. There is a danger when cyclist speeds are increased as they enter such a parking lot because driver’s of motor vehicles would not necessarily be attentive to their approach. Many drivers would be focused on the local vehicles around them as they moved in and out of their parking spaces. The extent of the potential danger needed some objective evaluation and so this was the reason to conduct observations of cyclists.

This photo is looking east from the parking lot of Gibbons Park and showing the downslope of Grosvenor Street in the background. If cyclists travel too quickly into the parking lot they risk colliding with motor vehicles that are travelling in and out of parking spots. Drivers who are focused on nearby vehicles during the parking procedures do not expect a high speed cyclist to approach their area.

The results of the slope-measuring procedure is shown in the table below. As can be seen the severity of the slope increases as the road reaches the bottom of the slope.

On August 31, 2022 video documentation was conducted of cyclists travelling on the downslope of Grosvenor Street. The documentation occurred between the hours of time of 0946 and 1230 hours, or for approximately 2 and 3/4 hours. Forty cyclists were observed during the time. The table below shows the details of the 20 cyclists who travelled westbound on the downslope. These twenty represent an average of just 7.3 cyclists per hour. At a distance of 225 metres the downslope leveled out and this location was several metres within the parking lot.

As can be seen in the above table there were not many full observations made available. Westbound cyclists reaching the parking lot had a choice of two entrances and we chose to follow those cyclists who took the most popular and direct route along the north portion of the lot. However some cyclists opted to turn left and into the south portion of the lot where there were not cameras. So the speed of some cyclists as they entered the parking lot was not documented. Seven observations are denoted at the 225-metre marker with the words “Into other lane”, meaning their speed could not be documented at this location. This resulted in only 13 remaining observations. Observation #2 occurred before we had a chance to complete our camera set-up so this observation was also incomplete at the 225-metre marker, so this caused a further deduction of full observations, down to just 12.

The table shows that four cyclists were observed to be travelling above 30 km/h. While not many these four would pose a safety problem if moving motor vehicles were in their presence. Particularly Observation #23 where the male rider of a road bike was not wearing a helmet yet he was travelling at the highest speed of almost 39 km/h.

View of cyclist travelling westbound on the downslope of Grosvenor Street on August 22, 2022. The cyclist is approaching the 200-metre marker at the entrance to the parking lot at Gibbons Park. Most cyclists travelled to the right however some chose to turn left into the south portion of the parking lot.

Discussion

I can summarize the results of reviewing the details of all three areas of concern along the noted detour.

Mercifully, the numbers of cyclists using the detour was diminished compared to the number of northbound cyclists that where observed approaching the area of construction of the TVP near Blackfriars bridge. Before the construction the number of cyclists at the Blackfriars Bridge numbered 39 per hour. Just after the closure of the TVP at Ann Street the number of northbound cyclists at the Blackfriars Bridge was reduced to 24 per hour. This was reduced again at the intersection of Ann and Talbots Streets to just 10.5 per hour. And then the number of cyclists was reduced again to just 7.3 per hour at the Grosvenor Street downslope. One can only imagine what developments could have taken place if the number of cyclists using the detour was not diminished.

As of writing the detour is still in effect and it may be lifted, perhaps near the end of September, or later. This is not a long time since the detour began on August 22nd, 2022. Hopefully the deficiencies that have been highlighted will not result any tragic consequences. However the discussion needs some clear-headed thought. Before a detour in finalized there must be certainty that the behaviour and capabilities of cyclists have been taken into account. One cannot just apply one’s theoretical knowledge or rely on published guidelines that may not necessarily apply to the unique specifics of an individual site. A solid understanding of cyclists and their expected actions in needed but also observational data at the site should be gathered as a way of monitoring for problems that may not be apparent at the commencement of the detour.

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