Special Report: Cycling

Another Bike Collision on Cannon

Given the number of collisions that have taken place at Cannon and Wellington, it makes sense to add high-visibility pavement markings.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 05, 2014

Earlier this week, I posted a story about a number of collisions involving bicycles on the Cannon Cycle Track in the first two months of operation. In three of the instances, the cyclist was riding in the cycle track and collided with a car turning left across the cycle track. The driver was charged in all three cases. (In the other two, the cyclist was either riding on the cross street or riding on Cannon outside the cycle track.)

Cannon Street Cycle Track at Wellington
Cannon Street Cycle Track at Wellington

Almost immediately, I received a message from a cyclist about a collision that was not included in the city's incident data. Like three of the other incidents, this also took place at Cannon and Wellington.

I followed up with the police and received the following description of the incident:

On Thursday, November 6, 2014 at approximately 17:30 HPS responded to a motor vehicle collision involving personal injury at the intersection of Cannon Street East and Wellington Street North, in the City of Hamilton. On arrival, a cyclist was being loaded into an ambulance. The involved vehicle, a Toyota Sierra was parked on the east side of Wellington Street south of Cannon.

Investigation revealed that the Toyota had been traveling westbound on Cannon Street and made a left turn to travel southbound on Wellington Street. The cyclist had been traveling eastbound on Cannon Street in the bicycle lane. Signs indicate vehicles are to yield to cyclists in the bicycle lanes.

The Toyota turned into the path of the cyclist and he hit the passenger's side of the Toyota. The cyclist was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

This matches the cyclist's description of what happened:

I was travelling east on Cannon, probably at around 10mph, at about 5:15 in the evening on Thursday, 6 November. The driver of a westbound minivan turned left onto Wellington right in front of my bike; I was already in the intersection when she started her turn. I struck the side of her vehicle at full speed, but was able to turn slightly so I took the hit on my side rather than hitting her head-on.

The police were not immediately able to confirm whether any charges were laid as a result of the collision, and I have not yet been able to determine why this incident was not included in the set of collision reports I received from the City.

According to the cyclist, "the driver is being charged with careless driving and, since my light was knocked off on impact and none of my witnesses answered the phone when the cops called, I'm being charged with not having a front light."

The cyclist also reports that his clavicle is fractured in two places and requires "a very risky surgical intervention".

Intersection Markings Needed

When the Cannon Cycle Track was designed, the design included pavement markings through intersections - regarded as "conflict zones" because of the potential for collisions when drivers turn across the path of cyclists.

The City officially opened the cycle track without adding the intersection markings, but stated in an October information report that the markings would be added in the next four weeks. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet.

When staff do add markings, I urge them to consider a high-visibility design similar to the intersection markings on the Dunsmuir Street cycle track in Vancouver:

Intersection markings on Dunsmuir Bike Lanes, Vancouver (Image Credit: Streetsblog)
Intersection markings on Dunsmuir Bike Lanes, Vancouver (Image Credit: Streetsblog)

The Functional Design document for the Cannon Cycle Track specifies dashed guiding lines and chevrons in white paint, similar to the intersection markings currently in place on Cannon and Sherman:

Cannon cycle track at Sherman (RTH file photo)
Cannon cycle track at Sherman (RTH file photo)

Given the number of collisions that have already taken place at Cannon and Wellington, this seems like an obvious choice to go with a higher-visibility design in this important pilot project.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 05, 2014 at 16:24:28

I won't ride in the Cannon lanes and now generally,, with the exception of Lawrence Road, avoid routes with bike lanes.

I'll admit I'm a fairly aggressive rider (i.e. ride as fast as I can), but also practice 'heads up' riding and always try to be aware of potential upcoming hazards. In 7 years of riding in Hamilton, I've had 5 "close calls".

  • 1 in Stinson bike lane riding east with the direction of traffic
  • 1 in Hunter bike lane riding east counter to one-way traffic direction
  • 3 in Cannon bike lane riding east counter to one-way traffic direction

Also, I shiver at the thought of a broken clavicle requiring surgery is termed a "minor injury".

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By lakeside (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 00:50:01 in reply to Comment 106627

The Stinson Street bike lanes were a welcome and needed addition to the street, giving us a stretch of safer passage when traveling from east to west.

But when they were installed it was done without re-painting any of the missing pavement markings at the minor intersections between Wentworth and Wellington.

The result is that cyclists are frequently, literally, knocked off their bikes by cars rolling through stop signs on the north/south streets. This has occurred within metres of me on three occasions in the last two years.

Just how many cyclists have had this happen to them while using the Stinson bike lanes, or others? Steve, you're another and I wonder how many others there are.

Cyclists here are rather stoic so most victims just pick themselves up off the pavement, the driver asks if they're okay, the dazed cyclist mumbles 'yes' and the driver hops back in their car and speeds off. I doubt that many (any?) of these collisions are reported so nobody really knows how often it's happening but it is happening regularly.

These events could be at least reduced if crosswalk lines were reintroduced at all intersections.

People know they are supposed to stop at the stop sign but when there are no lines it blurs that responsibility. They way overshoot the stop sign then go 'oh, what the hell' and roll right through the turn.

The problem is that this doesn't give them enough time to see anything smaller than a bus, and they end up hitting people.

Are there not requirements for intersections to have crosswalk lines or at least the wide white strip at the stop sign. Doesn't the Highway Traffic Act mandate lines?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 19:10:44 in reply to Comment 106644

That's exactly what happened with my close call on Stinson!

I was riding along in the bike lane when suddenly a car from a side street stopped with it's hood across the bike lane.

I swerved, thus only a close call. Though, lakeside's post has told me that I'm not alone with that experience.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 05, 2014 at 16:40:17

The cyclist should hire a lawyer to sue the driver and defend the ticket. The driver should hire a lawyer to defend the ticket.

The driver is guilty of failing to yield or improper turn, unless the cyclist didn't have a light.

The cyclist is guilty of nothing unless he didn't have a light (then he should thank his lucky stars he wasn't charged with careless.)

Regardless, the cyclist needs to access accident benefits insurance. If he does not have access to his own insurance he has access to benefits through the driver's insurance. This should be started right away.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-12-05 16:41:35

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By Cyclomaniac (anonymous) | Posted December 05, 2014 at 17:39:52

The conclusion is that cycling is dangerous, with or without tracks. Sad to say, but true.

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By PiersixBrawler (registered) | Posted December 10, 2014 at 15:16:45 in reply to Comment 106633

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by PiersixBrawler on 2014-12-10 15:24:38

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2014 at 15:29:30 in reply to Comment 106880

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2014 at 15:25:36 in reply to Comment 106880

There is so much actually *factually* wrong in this post I don't even know where to begin. I mean, not just "I disagree with your opinion" so much as "that is objectively incorrect".

I pay my taxes and I bike. Apparently my taxes don't count to you. Your license fees barely cover the costs of enforcing laws on the road, much less building it. The road itself predates the invention of the car, as well - Hamilton is old.

In fact, the expenditure is backwards - a tremendous amount of municipal cash that was earmarked for green infrastructure instead gets funneled into roads and bridges.

Please stop trying to rationalize the decision and just admit that you don't really care about anybody but yourself and other drivers - not the environment, not cyclists, and certainly not the people who live around Cannon Street.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2014 at 18:11:53 in reply to Comment 106633

The evidence does not support your fatalistic conclusion. Decades of research and design experience provide a pretty clear understanding of how to make cycling safer, and the best practise is to avoid conflicts by using a Dutch-style intersection design, which minimizes interactions between cyclists and drivers.

The Cannon Cycle track approaches a Dutch level of protection but falls short at intersections. The evidence indicates that brightly painted pavement markings at conflict areas like intersections helps raise the visibility of cyclists, reminding drivers to watch out and reducing collisions.

In fact, merely by increasing number of cyclists, the Cannon Cycle track is helping to reduce the rate of injuries through the well-documented "safety in numbers" effect. It's too early to draw conclusions about the rate of injuries, but observers are interested to see whether the number of bike injuries goes down on Barton now that Cannon is a viable east-West route.

Beyond that, cycling is inherently a risky activity but so are walking and driving. By a variety of measures, cycling is as safe as, or safer than, driving - particularly when you take into account the health impacts of active transportation vs. sitting in a car. In any case, with walking, cycling and driving alike, better infrastructure design has a huge impact on risk mitigation.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-12-05 18:15:27

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By Whitlock (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 09:13:54 in reply to Comment 106636

Ryan's comment about the dangers in other modes of transportation is right on the money. I gave up the bicycle in the late 1990s because it was simply too dangerous to mix with traffic. I enjoy long walks along city streets especially in the downtown where there is so much to see. However, as Ryan points out, on one walk I had two crap in your drawers close calls. Both were at signalized intersections where I was crossing with the pedestrian signal and both times, a van and a SUV were turning left and narrowly missed me. Both stopped in time but the SUV was within 6" before the idiot finally stopped. So I ALWAYs cross a signalized intersection from the right sidewalk so I face the traffic trying to turn left.
And all you avid cyclists, stay off the sidewalk! Especially the long stretch on east side of Upper Ottawa between Limeridge and Stonechurch. It is great, quiet PEDESTRIAN path. And it is where I got a great picture yesterday of a Red Tailed Hawk.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 05, 2014 at 19:09:51 in reply to Comment 106636

Cycling is far safer than driving. According to Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, "...the health benefits of shifting to active transportation outweigh the health risks – by at least a 15:1 ratio."

Quotation taken from p. 16 at link from paragraph headed "Health benefits versus risks."

The same information using a more popular style of writing may be found in this article, "Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation"

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-12-05 19:16:04

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 19:19:11 in reply to Comment 106639

"Cycling is far safer than driving."

Unless you are in an accident!

I'm a cyclist and as mentioned above ride aggressively (especially for my middle age), but no matter how good it is for my long-term health I know that I could do some real damage to myself even from "minor" accident/incident.

In fact, I've been in car accidents in the past that have left me a little sore. But, only ever cracked a bone (rib) in a bike accident when I was tossed from my bike after a handle bar strike with another rider.

My point, there's a balance to safety.

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By Cyclomaniac (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 09:56:49

Ryan, I like your logic and your advocacy is impeccable. However, your operative words are 'minimizes interactions' etc. The problem is that when auto meets bicycle, the auto wins. When auto meets pedestrian, the auto wins. When auto meets auto, the bigger, faster auto wins. The cards are stacked int the auto's favour. So, cycling is dangerous. That is indisputable. I am not saying not to cycle as a result, but to build these cycling lanes to increase safety is a placebo which may make things even more dangerous. We need to recognize that and be ever alert.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 19:26:07 in reply to Comment 106647

Agreed, on many points. Ryan's advocacy and Cyclomaniac's point.

Minor auto-to-auto interaction everyone typically walks away. Auto-to-bike the cyclist is "loaded into an ambulance" with "minor injuries".

Yeah, just a broken clavicle and a pending surgery... I wonder if the driver is driving again yet?

I'm beginning to believe that cycle lanes are good for the majority of cyclists, but more dangerous for some who ride quicker/more aggressively.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 13:08:29 in reply to Comment 106659

I'm beginning to believe that cycle lanes are good for the majority of cyclists, but more dangerous for some who ride quicker/more aggressively.

This is actually my favorite part of the increasing infrastructure. The "normalization" of cycling.

The things that make fast aggressive cycling comfortable, are the same things that make fast aggressive driving comfortable. If you're brave you take a lane and as fast as you can pedal you are free to go. The corollary being that stopping is more unappealing hence the rider also takes more risks when they should be stopping.

The things making it less possible for cyclists to fly as fast as they want all the time, are the things that slow cars down too, and draw other people out to make trips by bike.

The same things that make motorists more aware of cyclists and improve safety, will also work to make antisocial riders stick out more when they do dumb stuff such as blow intersections and create conflict for others. The taming of aggressive riders, combined with the increase of new riders, is exactly the desired outcome!

I rode for many years in the pioneering days that predated bike lanes, and I ride fast in mixed traffic, and I somewhat enjoy it. I also ride in heavier cycling traffic in Netherlands and downtown Toronto. The latter is much more pleasant, yes it means riding with a flow of other people rather than wild and free, but the lowered stress, increased attentiveness from cars, and generally more pleasant street, far outweigh anything that is lost.

So while Hamilton "debugs" its implementation of this new technology called a separated bike lane :) when approaching a high risk intersection like Cannon + Anything, glance over your shoulder, stop pedaling for a second and coast while take a quick scan of what's around you. I promise it will work quite well in lieu of a whistle or train horn :)

I didn't make it as far as Tim Hortons this morning without a pickup truck turning across my path, but this one too, was no big deal. It's wrong and annoying, but at this point in the evolution of cycling in Ontario, sometimes we have to brake for turning cars to literally save ourselves.

I hope this person recovers quickly, that's a bad day if there ever was one.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-07 13:29:06

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By JM325 (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 10:20:50

I've been riding the Cannon Cycle Track at least twice a day (to/from work) since it opened and I pass through the Cannon/Wellington intersection every time. I have lost count as to the number of times I've been nearly hit. I've even had the experience of a car waiting for pedestrians to cross Cannon (at Wellington) and thinking "ok awesome, they are paying attention" to then go through the intersection and have them fly around the corner. With the winter around the corner, it's going to only get more dangerous. Bikes can't stop as fast, just as cars cannot.

The most frustrating part is the drivers don't even notice you, or hear you if you scream at them. So I decided to buy a 140dB bike horn. Though I don't think I should have to resort to having one on my bike, nor should others, for now it helps me draw more attention.

Comment edited by JM325 on 2014-12-06 10:22:12

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 19:35:22 in reply to Comment 106648

As mentioned previously based on a few experiences like yours, I've given up riding on the Cannon bike lanes. I can't afford to be the guinea pig while we wait for it to be an excepted part of the urban landscape by drivers.

Another option is to ride with a whistle in your mouth.

I know it's a pain, it puts money into Ron Foxcroft's pocket, and isn't as recognizable as it used to be when every police officer controlling an intersection had one. But, it's a loud high-pitched sound that can be sounded in a breath.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 11:06:16

I don't understand why the cyclist was charged with not having a light. When it was knocked off at impact was it then lost?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 06, 2014 at 19:28:29 in reply to Comment 106649

Because the cyclist was loaded into an ambulance, so was taken from the scene, the police didn't scour the area looking for it and a few hours later when the cyclist was charged and discharged from hospital it had been pulverized into non-existence by the cars running over it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 07:57:58 in reply to Comment 106660

If that's what occurred, since you seem to be in the know, you should be forwarding that to the HPS to assist in their investigation. If you aren't comfortable doing so, contact Crime Stoppers to anonymously put in that tip.

If you aren't serious and are just going based on your thoughts or opinion, then you should probably update the above post to reflect that.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 15:26:23 in reply to Comment 106672

All supposition on my part. But in all likelihood what happened since the cyclist stated "my light was knocked off on impact".

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 08, 2014 at 18:00:11 in reply to Comment 106678

since the cyclist stated "my light was knocked off on impact".

But since anyone will say anything to get away with something, it has to be taken at face value. Wouldn't there be something left on the bike? Mounting bracket? Mark where it was mounted? Pieces of plastic? Maybe it used to be there but came off before and the cyclist never noticed?

We'll stop with the devil's advocacy now. It's not what you know, it's what you can prove. And with no proof, it didn't happen.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 08, 2014 at 22:14:23 in reply to Comment 106714

Comment was to RTH, so wouldn't have been said to "try to get away with something".

I thought the same thing with the bracket, but could have been a MEC Turtle light, or similar, so no bracket.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 15:30:28

Add one more to the tally. Cyclist running a red light. Who's keeping count? I think it's now, 4 for cars at fault, 3 for cyclists.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 15:50:14 in reply to Comment 106679

eBike at Cannon @Catherine a few minutes ago. Fault not known, at least by me, at this time.

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By LifelongHamiltonian (registered) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 16:06:40

As cyclists, we too must heed the traffic laws. This post just hit the CBC after a cyclist habitually ran red lights.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

There's enough room on the road for everyone if we all pay attention.

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By Cyclomaniac (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2014 at 19:56:37

Just saw the CBC post as noted above. My comments are sadly prescient. Be careful out there. And there is not snow on those bike lanes yet. I was out today; a relatively good day and even on a Sunday I saw some close calls.

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