There Were 1,315 Recorded Collisions Involving Cyclists in Toronto in 2011

Update: see previous posts – August 24, 2012 Bicycles: Gas-Powered, August 9, 2012 Art of Bicycle Maintenance Puts Young Workers on a New Path, August 9, 2012 Winnipeg: Cyclist Receives $111 Ticket for Riding on Sidewalk Across Bridge, August 6, 2012 Cyclist’s Bicycle Wheels Caught in Old Unused TTC Streetcar Tracks, Falls and Dies, August 6, 2012 Police Charge Ontario e-Bike Rider with Impaired Driving, August 2, 2012 Post-and-Ring Bike Stands in Toronto, Made in Mississauga, July 26, 2012 Bike lanes: Separated Lanes for Sherbourne Street Go Ahead, July 22, 2012 Most Stolen Bicycles in Ottawa Are Not Claimed and Subsequently Auctioned Off, July 20, 2012 New Post-and-Ring Bike Stands for City of Toronto, July 19, 2012 Distracted Cyclist Collides with Rear of Pick-Up Truck, While Cyclist Was Texting, June 23, 2012 Bicycle Helmets: Should Bicycle Helmet Laws Be Mandatory for All Cyclists?, June 19, 2012 Bicycle Helmets: Cycling Review Calls for Side Guards for Trucks, Helmets for Cyclists, June 17, 2012 World Naked Bike Ride: Toronto Cyclists Protest in the Nude, June 8, 2012 Impaired Driving: While Riding an Electric Bicycle, May 31, 2012 Bicycle Stations: Indoor Bike Stations at TTC Subway Stations, May 27, 2012 Ryder Hesjedal First Canadian Cyclist to Win the Giro d’Italia, May 23, 2012 Toronto Cyclist Struck By Beck Taxi Driver Was Walking Away From Dispute, According to Cyclist, May 13, 2012 Ms. TTC Refuses to Obey Posted Stop Sign While Riding Bicycle, May 4, 2012 Bicycle Helmets: “Helmets On Kids” Campaign Begins May 15, 2012 in Barrie, April 26, 2012 Toronto Police Launch Vehicle/Bicycle Blitz on Danforth Avenue, between Victoria Park and Broadview Avenue, April 25, 2012 Construction on Toronto’s First Physically Separated Bike Lane is Scheduled to Begin in the Summer of 2012, April 24, 2012 Toronto Board of Health Wants to Lower Motor Vehicle Speed Limits in Favour of Cycling and Walking, April 4, 2012 Toronto Cyclists Union Calls For An Environmental Assessment Before Jarvis Bicycle Lanes Are Eliminated, January 17, 2012 Toronto Traffic Fatalities Declining in 2011,  January 12, 2012 Canada’s Bicycle Helmet Laws – Most Provinces and All Territories Don’t Have Legislation in Place,  January 10, 2012 Riding Bicycles on Sidewalks in Toronto – Police Seldom Enforce By-Laws, January 6, 2011 City of Toronto Is Considering Licensing Cyclists, January 4, 2011 Toronto Takes Advantage of Rush Hour Gridlock By Tripling Parking Fine$, October 24, 2011 Toronto in Process of Updating and Harmonizing Cyclist Bylaws & Considers Licensing Cyclists, September 28, 2011 Results of Sept.27/11 Bicycle/Pedestrian Blitz on Danforth Ave/Broadview Ave, September 16, 2011 Casual cyclists feel much safer on sidewalks, rather then the Road, September 7, 2011 Opening of Doors of Motor Vehicles,  September 5, 2011 Bike Trails Through Two Hydro Corridors and Leaside Rail Corridor, August 11, 2011 Bicycle Safety Called for by Ontario Medical Association, August 9, 2011 Police/T.T.C Target Drivers/Pedestrians/Cyclists at T.T.C Stops from Aug.8 – 14, 2011, August 5, 2011 Results of Bicycle/Pedestrian Blitz on August 3 & 4, 2011, August 2, 2011 – Bicycle/Driver/Pedestrian Blitz on Danforth Ave from Victoria Park to Broadview Ave on August 3 & 4/11, July 30, 2011 Pedestrian Injured by Cyclist Calls for Regulated Cycling in Toronto, July 28, 2011 Bicycle Helmets Lead to Fewer Head Injuries for Cyclist’s Who Wear Them, July 17, 2011 Cyclists Ignore the Signs at Kew Gardens, July 13, 2011 Toronto Bicycle Lanes Eliminated, July 9, 2011 Cyclists Continue Riding the Wrong Way on a One-Way Street (Huron Street), July 8, 2011 Toronto Police to Ticket Cyclists and Motor Vehicles Ignoring Cyclist’s Space, July 7, 2011 Careless Driving Causing Death?, May 4, 2011 Police Charge Parent of Young Cyclist Not Wearing His Bicycle Helmet, May 2, 2011 Cyclist on Powered-Assisted Bicycle Charged with Not Wearing a Helmet and Impaired Driving, March 9, 2011 Cyclist Launches 20 Million Lawsuit against Cycling Club & Association, January 27, 2011 Time to Update the Cycling Laws in Toronto & Ontario?, January 8, 2011 Toronto is Ready to Invest in the Safety of Cyclists,December 22, 2010   Toronto’s First Count of Downtown Cyclists (Sept. 2010) , November 8, 2010 Week Long Pedestrian Safety Campaign/Blitz, October 10, 2010 Bike Boxes , September 16, 2010 Private Member’s Bill requires a minimum of one metre paved shoulder be added whenever designated provincial highways are repaved to reduce accidents/fatalities , August 26, 2010 Police Lay 400 Charges Against Cyclists/Pedestrians , May 19, 2010 Motorists Must Stay 3,4 or 5 Feet Away from Bicyclists , March 29, 2010 Toronto’s Zero-Tolerance Bicycle Blitz , November 16, 2009 Most Dangerous Intersections for Pedestrians – Toronto (2008) , October 12, 2009 Idaho Stop Law , September 7, 2009 Toronto Police Bicycle Safety Blitz , March 21, 2009,  Bicycle Accidents Toronto, Reported in 2008 , December 20, 2008 City of Toronto Considering Installing “Rumble Strips”

see source – by Katie Daubs, Toronto Star Staff Reporter

Cyclist without a helmet, lying on the street after tumbling to the ground off of his bicycle. He was later transported to hospital by ambulance and his bike was placed into trunk of police cruiser

Cycling around Toronto, I’ve always been pleased — maybe even a bit smug — about all the exercise I was getting, the money I was saving, and the frustration I was avoiding on the TTC.

I’m a cautious cyclist, but that doesn’t matter in a city where everyone has a friend who has been “doored” or taken down by streetcar tracks.

I crashed into the pavement on Aug. 8.

After the injured cyclist was rushed to hospital via ambulance, his bicycle was placed into the trunk of a Toronto police cruiser

I was cycling east on Queen St. wearing my helmet. I normally avoid Queen, but I had some errands that day.

When I pedalled across the Queen and Victoria intersection, a boxy utility vehicle was parked in the right lane, taking up most of the lane.

Cyclists that spend anytime cycling downtown, know how treacherous street-car tracks can be if the wheel of your bicycle is trapped in the grove of the track. You lose all control and inevitably it leads to a wipe-out; if it has rained and the streets and tracks are wet, a cyclist will almost always wipe out after their bike wheels are trapped in the street-car tracks, even if only momentarily.

I wasn’t going fast, but there was no room to manoeuvre my wheels to a right angle. There were tracks everywhere, curving and turning from both streets. My front wheel slipped into the juncture of two tracks. Everything stopped. I kept going.

My chin hit the pavement and I could feel broken bits of teeth mixed in with blood. Blood and gravelly bits dripped from my chin. The pain was mitigated by the shock, but I still wailed.

A young guy grabbed my bike and wheeled it off the street. Two women consoled me and held my purse, which had fallen out of my basket. A doctor leaving St. Mike’s for the day bandaged up my growing-larger-by-the-minute knee. A TTC employee called an ambulance. I don’t know their names but I am so thankful to them: Toronto at its best.

I was taken to Mount Sinai, where a doctor glued my chin together and a dentist removed most of my eye tooth, sealed it, and then sealed another tooth that was broken. The eye tooth, which had a vertical fracture, was looking rough. It might need to be extracted right away, the dentist said.

My boyfriend and I went to an after-hours emergency dental clinic, the kind that features before-and-after pictures of bloody stubby mouths and gleaming white smiles. I looked at my face in the mirror. Staring back was the witch from Snow White on her way to deliver a batch of poison apples.

Several dental visits and a few weeks of liquid diet later, my tooth stubs await root canals, braces and reconstruction, to the tune of $7,000. I have insurance.

Police keep stats of reported collisions, but those numbers don’t account for cyclists like me, who have no reason to call police. The 1,315 collisions reported to police last year all have an additional factor: a vehicle, a pedestrian, a streetcar. The data, dating back to 2006, shows a slight but steady increase in the number of collisions.

Dr. Glen Bandiera, the head of ER at St. Michael’s Hospital, estimates that in the summer, four or five patients arrive in the ER every day after a bicycle incident. Of this group, he estimates 20 per cent have “something to do” with streetcar tracks: “Either in an attempt to avoid the tracks they’ve run into something, or they’ve got caught in the tracks,” he said.

The most common injuries are wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations from people using their arms to break their fall. Lower limb injuries and dental injuries do occur, but they are not as common.

More than half of Toronto’s citizens consider themselves cyclists (either recreational or daily commuters). Most — especially the daily commuters — know that you need to cross the tracks at a right angle to avoid misfortune. It’s not always possible.

There are 304 kilometres of streetcar tracks in the city (not counting decommissioned tracks). Streetcars ferry 295,000 people around the city every day. A bane to many cyclists, and certain politicians, they are a seemingly permanent and sometimes celebrated part of the cityscape. Many American cities are reconsidering the streetcar, and in Portland, the expansion of the streetcar/light-rail system is being heralded as a boon for development.

Dr. Steven Friedman, an emergency medicine physician and researcher at University Health Network, was one of the investigators on a recent study that looked at bicycle injuries in multiple cities, including Toronto. In his research, he found that a third of all cycling injuries reported by ER doctors at Toronto’s University Health Network were related to streetcar tracks. (The data, he points out, is skewed toward downtown because of hospital locations.)

Some cyclists are just inexperienced, some are not watching, and others are “nudged.”

Nudging, he explains, is what happens when a car is parked inappropriately in the cycling lane and the cyclist is pushed closer to the streetcars — a combination of lack of adequate cycling infrastructure, and people parking where they shouldn’t.

“The streetcar tracks are problematic, but what the study really drives home, is that there is a need for dedicated cycling infrastructure, for separated bike paths with a physical barrier between the cyclist and the roadway,” he said.

A critical issue in Toronto is the lack of a dedicated east-west passage in the southern downtown core.

Herb van den Dool, who blogs at I Bike Toronto, knows that it’s nearly impossible to avoid tracks downtown.

“North-south is a lot easier; there are more side streets,” he said. “If you’re going east-west, sooner or later you will end up on a major street with streetcar tracks.”

Bloor, Harbord and Front are the only major east-west thoroughfares without streetcar tracks in the immediate downtown core, says Daniel Egan, the city’s manager of cycling infrastructure and programs.

The city is looking into upgrading some of its bike lanes with protective curbs; consultations and studies are underway for the Wellesley-Harbord corridor. On Sherbourne, construction for a dedicated lane has started. A lane for bicycles on either Richmond and Adelaide is also being considered.

Finding room in the city’s business district is not easy, Egan says. Couriers need spaces to park. Delivery trucks come and go. The film industry uses Richmond St. to park vehicles during film shoots.

“I don’t think there is any way we can do this without inconveniencing somebody,” says Egan.

Twenty-five years ago, Egan was a bicycle safety co-ordinator for the city. At the time, the cycling committee didn’t support bike lanes because they were hoping cyclists would envision themselves as “vehicular operators.” In the late ’80s and early ’90s, attitudes shifted; people wanted the white line painted on the road. Now, the white line is not enough.

“Any city in the world that has high bicycle use has a network of separated bicycle lanes. It has taken us a lot longer in North America to accept that fact,” he says.

Amsterdam is renowned for its cycling infrastructure. There are 400 kilometres of bicycle paths, a mix of dedicated lanes, painted white lines, and some shared lanes on streets along the narrow downtown canals, originally built for horses and carriages.

“At this point, if there are renovations in roads, there is always a cycle path — or 99 per cent of the time. They will take cyclists into account. Pedestrians come first, then cyclists, then cars in designing roads in Amsterdam,” said Tahira Limon, international press officer.

Most of the city’s bicycle lanes are designed to cross the city’s tram tracks at a right angle — but of course it is not always possible and cyclists must be careful. Still, the tram tracks aren’t a major issue for cyclists, she said. Perhaps it’s the education: in most elementary schools, 12-year-olds take a cycling course with a practical exam.

Portland, Ore., is another city with a streetcar tracks and a cycling community. When the city began revitalizing its network in the late ’90s, it made some mistakes — for example, putting tracks on the far right side of one-way streets, the natural home of cyclists.

For the latest expansion, the cycling community had a seat at the table alongside engineers and planners during the design, says Dan Anderson, with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The city has some separated bikeways, and designed bicycle lanes to avoid conflict and improve safety — with markings on the road and signage. On some streets with tracks on the right, they were able to move bike lanes to the left.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure that one does not take away from the other’s success,” Anderson says.

Steve Bozzone is a volunteer organizer with Active Right of Way, a Portland group dedicated to safety for all road users. He says even in the latest expansion, some streets still have tracks in the right lane because of utilities and bridge complications.

He gives the city and transit officials credit for aiming toward the left, but “we’re hoping the city learns from its mistakes, what we really want to see is the retrofitting of the current lines to be safer for cyclists,” he said.

His group has a street car crash report form on its website. In one year, 150 reports came in — “not an acceptable side effect” for the city’s improved transit, he says.

There is no easy solution when everyone wants a piece of the city. One idea bandied about online — rubber filler that depresses for streetcars, but provides a safe filler for cyclists — is not an option in Toronto.

“Anything in the streetcar flange would probably derail the streetcar.” Egan says.

Egan says education is a focus and there is lots of advice from the city, doctors and police: always wear a helmet, give yourself enough time to navigate streetcar tracks at the proper angle, be careful when it rains, anticipate the behavior of other vehicles.

I haven’t been back on my bicycle, but I will ride again. Maybe after the braces come off

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