Should Toronto’s Road Safety Strategy Address Pedestrian-Cyclist Collisions?

At Will Davidson LLP, our personal injury lawyers represent clients injured in every kind of traffic accident, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian and cycling accidents, and accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles. If you’ve been injured on an Ontario road, a Will Davidson LLP car accident lawyer can help.

In Toronto, where our head offices are located, many of the people who are killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents are cyclists and pedestrians, commonly known as vulnerable road users. The city’s sweeping road safety plan, Vision Zero 2.0, is focused primarily on improving safety for these road users by redesigning roads, installing crosswalks, adding speed bumps, and generally reducing vehicle speeds and changing driver behaviour. This approach has been endorsed by most safety activists but panned by some local politicians and media members. 

The Toronto Sun, for example, recently asked why more isn’t being done to crack down on dangerous cyclists. It noted that City Hall and Toronto Police do not track pedestrian-cyclist collisions, and that the accidents aren’t addressed by Vision Zero 2.0.

“A collision between a cyclist and pedestrian is an incident report. It does not meet Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation definition of a collision,” Toronto Police Sgt. Brett Moore told the paper. “In most cases, I would suspect these are not reported frequently by the involved people because injuries are low or people take off. If it was reported, it would get reported as an incident report.”

How Serious is the Pedestrian-Cyclist Collision Issue?

Statistics regarding pedestrian-cyclist collisions are hard to come by. There has been at least one fatal pedestrian-cyclist collision in Toronto since 2016, and at least seven in New York since 2011, according to that city’s Department of Transportation. In Great Britain, the Telegraph reported in 2017 that serious injuries and fatalities caused by pedestrian-cyclist collisions had more than doubled during the previous decade.

Those who are concerned about pedestrian-cyclist collisions believe better tracking and enforcement is necessary.

“Well I definitely think we should be keeping track of any of (the cyclist-pedestrian collisions),” said Michael Ford, Toronto City Councillor for Etobicoke North and nephew of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, to the Sun. “The technical term doesn’t matter to me as does getting the information, and I think that is very important. I don’t see a reason we shouldn’t be doing that for cyclists and pedestrians.”

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mike Briggs, whose wife was struck and killed in a high-profile pedestrian-cyclist incident in 2016, called for new laws in the UK.

“These figures reinforce the need for comprehensive and coherent laws relating to cyclists in line with other road users,” he said. “At the moment there is simply no effective, relevant legal remedy for anyone killed or seriously injured as a result of criminal wrongdoing by a cyclist.”

The rise of serious pedestrian-cyclist collisions in Great Britain is worrying, and similar trends must be avoided at all costs in North American cities like New York and Toronto, as any car accident lawyer would agree. However, shifting focus away from collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users would be misguided, if not downright dangerous. Despite the spike in cyclist-pedestrian collisions in the UK, these accidents account for just 2.5 out of every 400 pedestrian deaths, or less than 1 per cent.

“The rise in the numbers of pedestrians killed or injured by cyclists is concerning but the fact remains that vehicles are responsible for 99 per cent of road user fatalities,” explained Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, to the Telegraph. “Our justice system has to be far better equipped to deal appropriately with dangerous behaviour from all road users.”

In New York, home to well over 8-million people including more pedestrian commuters than anywhere else in North America, there were no fatal pedestrian-cyclist collisions in 2010, 2011, or 2012.

“The number are historically really, really low,” Manhattan attorney Daniel Flanzig told Bloomberg in 2014. “There’s not an epidemic.”

In Toronto, 46 pedestrians and cyclists were killed by vehicles last year. Forty-five were killed in 2017. The single death resulting from a pedestrian-cyclist collision over the past three years, though tragic, should not distract from the pressing issue of improving road safety for all vulnerable road users.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team will assess your case and offer guidance and advice as we move through the legal process.

Our personal injury lawyers are committed to the cause of protecting every Ontario road user from serious injuries and death. While that effort may include reducing pedestrian-cyclist collisions, the focus must remain on limiting collisions between motor vehicles and between motor vehicles and vulnerable road users.

Image source: Shutterstock

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