Ontario cyclists wary after rash of collisions

Is it safe to ride your bicycle in Canada’s large urban centres? In cities like Ottawa and Toronto, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not. Ottawa, in particular, has experienced an ongoing rash of bicycle-automobile collisions since the beginning of September that has caused some residents to put their bikes away. In a collision between a cyclist and a motorist, the cyclist doesn’t stand much of a chance, and while the help of a bicycle accident lawyer can ease the burden of a serious injury, many cyclists aren’t willing to put their health at risk.

Ottawa collisions

On September 1, 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan, the daughter of a Bangladeshi diplomat, was struck and killed while riding in a segregated bike lane on Ottawa’s Laurier Avenue West. The high-profile event shocked fellow cyclists: Ottawa resident Sebastian Winkler told the CBC that he would no longer ride his bike in Ottawa, “for fear of being hit by a car.”

“I would not cycle in downtown Ottawa,” added Brianna St. Cyr. “It’s just not safe.”

On October 26, a cyclist was struck by a vehicle while riding in an O’Connor Street bike lane, which had opened the same day. Another cyclist was struck on O’Connor Street on November 2, and a third was hit on November 10, at the same intersection where the October 26 collision occurred.

Ottawa city councilor Catherine McKenney defended the new bike lane in spite of the collisions in an interview with CTV News. “It’s still keeping cyclists safer than if they were out there without any segregation,” McKenney said. “We need to make sure, if you’re a driver, that you’re watching for cyclists. You have a responsibility to watch for pedestrians and cyclists.”

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to speak to an experienced and understanding bicycle accident lawyer.

Room for improvement

In Ottawa, cycling advocates are urging residents not to abandon their bicycles.

“There’s a safety in numbers effect,” Vélo Québec’s Bartek Komorowski told the CBC. “The more cyclists there are, the less likely a cyclist is to be involved in an accident. In spite of a greater increase in bicycle use, the number of accidents has remained constant or fallen in many cities.”

Komorowski is right: between 2005 and 2011, daily bicycle trips in the National Capital Region rose from 37,100 to 53,800; between 2006 and 2014, cyclist injuries fell slightly, from 231 to 228.

Numbers alone are not enough to protect vulnerable road users, though; road design has a significant impact as well. For example, motorists expressed safety concerns when two-way bike lanes were installed on one-way O’Connor St. The city has installed electronic billboards along the route to remind drivers to watch for cyclists.

In Toronto, Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS) is advocating for a number of measures to reduce the prevalence and impact of accidents, including reduced speed limits, improved cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure, and harsher penalties for dangerous and distracted driving. Certain City of Toronto workers agree.

“If you’re hit by a car travelling at 50 or 60 km/h, you have a good chance of not surviving that injury,” said Toronto Public Health’s director of healthy public policy, Monica Campbell, in an interview with the CBC. “That doesn’t happen at 30 km/h.”

What can a bicycle accident lawyer do to help?

At Will Davidson LLP, we are committed to helping you access the best possible compensation for your injuries, and supporting you through your difficult recovery. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cycling accident, contact a Will Davidson bicycle accident lawyer today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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