By Ryan McGreal
Published August 29, 2012
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:
The Province should develop an Ontario Cycling Plan to guide policy development, legislation and regulations and to commit funding for cycling infrastructure.
Cities should adopt a "complete streets" approach to new street design and existing street redesign that focuses on the safety of all road users.
Cycling safety and awareness should be part of a comprehensive education strategy that includes public schools, bicycle purchases and driver's licence testing.
The Province and municipalities should modify the Highway Traffic Act, the Municipal Act and relevant municipal by-laws to ensure clarity and consistency of rules for cyclists and other road users.
Promote and support helmet use, and consider a mandatory helmet law "within the context of an evaluation of the impact of this legislation on cycling activity".
Mandate a new rule that vehicles passing cyclists must give at least one metre of clearance.
Add paved shoulders to provincial highways.
Mandate side-guards for heavy trucks so cyclists cannot fall under them.
Use enforcement, education and public safety to address specific issues of cycling safety in given communities.
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.
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)