Transportation

Kitchener First City in Ontario to Endorse Coroner's Report on Cycling

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 29, 2012

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record reports that the City of Kitchener is the first municipality in Ontario to endorse the Ontario Coroner's report on cycling.

According to the Record:

The city will also urge the Ontario government to implement that report's recommendations, beginning with a provincewide cycling plan to guide policy, legislation, regulations and funding for cycling infrastructure.

Specifically, the motion calls on Council to:

  • Adopt what's called a "complete streets" policy that requires roadways to be designed and built with the safety of all users in mind - pedestrians, cyclists, public transit and vehicles.

  • Review all of its bylaws related to cycling to ensure consistency, ease of understanding and better promotion and enforcement.

  • Study local data on cycling deaths and injuries to look for ways to improve public education, safety and enforcement.

  • Encourage other municipalities to do the same.

The Coroner's Report, which studied the 129 accidental cycling deaths in Ontario between 2006 and 2010, makes a number of recommendations:

Contributing Factors

Of interest to those who tend to blame cyclists reflexively when a cyclist is killed, the report notes that "contributing factors" were roughly split between cyclists and motorists in the 129 deaths the report considered. 71% of cyclists and 62% of motorists took some "modifiable action" that contributed to the collision - though as the report notes, this is subject to bias as "the cyclist was unable to provide his or her own observations."

In any case, the recommendations reflect the panel's judgment that these deaths could have been prevented with better cycling infrastructure that allows cyclists to share the road more safely with automobiles.

In a number of cases, the physical characteristics of the roadway on which the collision took place contributed to the death. This ranged from busy urban areas where no formal bicycle lanes or paths existed, to provincial highways without paved shoulders.

At the Expert Panel meeting, the concept of ensuring that cyclists could share the road safely with motor vehicles and other road users was a prevalent theme. Literature was reviewed that emphasized urban design principles that were inclusive of all road users, not just motorists.

Strategies for creating "complete streets" include:

cycling networks (segregated or non-segregated bike lanes; bike paths), and other means to permit safe access for all road users, including vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Other strategies include low-speed "community safety zones" in residential areas with increased fines for speeding.

Controversial Helmet Policy

Finally, a note on the helmet recommendation, since that is what the mainstream media mainly focused on when the Coroner's Report was released earlier this year.

The report notes that the idea of a helmet law is "controversial" because, as some members of the expert panel pointed out, helmet laws tend to deter people from cycling, and lower rates of cycling result in higher risk of injury for cyclists. Similarly, higher rates of cycling result in lower rates of injury through "safety in numbers".

Panel members also worried that a recommendation to mandate helmet use would be seen by governments as "'the answer' to cycling safety, with the result that other measures recommended in this Review (improved infrastructure, legislative review, education and enforcement activities) are de-emphasized or not acted upon."

Panelists also argued that the primary object of a cycling strategy should be to prevent collisions and crashes in the first place rather than to mitigate injury. This approach also recognizes that safety for cyclists is a shared responsibility of all road users and policymakers, and not the sole responsibility of cyclists to protect themselves.


(h/t to Hamilton Police Sgt. Jay Turner for linking to the Record article)

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. Several of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on twitter.

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By joannaward (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2012 at 11:54:34

I need a few hamilton folk to read this report and get on those downtown streets! This is sort of what we've all been saying all along.

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By One Lung (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2012 at 13:12:00

Haphazard thought: Seeing "coroner" + "cycling" in same sentence may be perceived as confirmation of public's worst fears and make some shy away from clicking.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted August 29, 2012 at 14:24:50

While a helmet may save you from a catastrophic head injury it greatly increase the chance of a catastrophic neck injury. Since the report only examined cycling deaths instead of deaths and injuries this was missed. The first thing that will happen if there is a helmet law is Sikhs will demand an exemption (already happened in BC). Instead of yet more laws (which will only ever be enforced selectively), we need more common sense. Next time you get out of a car try using opposite hand to open the door. Simple, Cheap, and virtually eliminates the possibility of giving some cyclist the door prize.

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By chris angel (registered) | Posted September 04, 2012 at 13:38:48

Absolutely necessary and decades too late. I used to ride a ten speed in the 70's and 80's both in Burlington and Hamilton. Many motorists then were convinced that the right to the road was totally theirs. Some would pass by so close it was terrifying, all because of their right to ALL of the lane. Usually this was at a rate of speed far above the posted limit. A simple twitch or movement to avoid a sewer grate on my part would have been catastrophic. There has been a proliferation of alternative transportation devices - electric bicycles and scooters, recumbents, true electric cars etc. Many can meet the needs of the public though they are not highway capable. We need strategies to accomadate these eco friendly alternatives and to enforce a minimum 1-M clearance on motorists who insist on monopolising the roadway and in risking the lives of cyclists or alternative transportation users. I still remember the group of women cyclists killed by a single driver on York Road near the bridge in the late 1970's. Clearance by motorists should have been legislated then. How many more cyclists will have to die before this long overdue right is finally granted to cyclists and other roadway users.

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