What the Bike Community is Saying About Cycling Collisions

Cycling Oxford

Cycling Oxford (Photo credit: tejvanphotos)

One of the most feared and dangerous threats posed by our busy city streets is, of course, the collision of a moving vehicle with a cyclist. However, in addition to moving vehicles, “dooring” has also brought down many cyclists in their riding prime. I have spoken about dooring in a previous article, identifying it as a collision caused by drivers opening their doors and cyclists being unable to swerve. When a cyclist hits a car door there can be serious consequences including long-term, debilitating injury or death.

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Are Toronto Bikers Finally Being Heard?

Safe Cycling vs. Pleasant Driving: Does it have to be an either or?

Digital Cycling art by Jon Diogenous  I am writing this blog article with more good and bad news for the bikers in Toronto. The good news is: we are not alone. More and more often I am seeing write-ups in the Globe & Mail and National Post speaking to the need for safer cycling in Toronto. Torontonians are really beginning to recognize that it is not just “hipsters” and super star athletes that want to commute via bicycle. However, with positive protest arising from pro-bike citizens and city councillors, many bike opponents are speaking out just as loudly.

I read an interesting article a while ago (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/06/much-talk-but-little-action-on-improving-city-for-torontos-little-bike-people/) that addresses politicians’ dismissal of “Little Bike People.” The article compares the biking environments in New York, Philadelphia and Toronto. While biking and safe bike paths are flourishing in the former two cities, these alternative commuting solutions still seem to fall flat in Toronto. I strongly believe that this is because our city has positioned driving and biking as oppositional ends on a negative dichotomy. In arguments put forth by the public and reiterated in the news, it always seems as though you must choose between being a driver or a cyclist. I have a few ideas why this sentiment has developed, but I think it is far more important for all of us to work on a discourse that begins to change this oppositional conversation.

The urge toward biking opposition runs high in our streets and in our political environment. Just last October Mayor Rob Ford spent $300K to remove a bike lane from Jarvis (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/03/mayor-ford-defends-spending-300k-on-bike-lane-removal-it-never-should-have-been-built-in-the-first-place/). While this bike lane offered cyclists a safer way to reach work and entertainment hubs, its costly removal shaves a measly two minutes off of drivers’ commutes. This aggressive anti-biking act demonstrates that, at Toronto’s core, there is a strong belief that progress for cyclists means doom for drivers of “proper forms of transportation.”

In an attempt to remedy this offense against Toronto cyclists, a few councillors proposed that drivers should be taxed to fuel the funds needed to build a safer biking environment in our city. Unfortunately, this motion was also swiftly rejected and it seemed that, once more, Toronto favoured motorized vehicles. Mayor Ford and his supporters argued that motorists are already being punished enough by our city’s congestion; adding additional monetary strife would only fuel the fire against cyclist.

It was interesting to note that the original article that I referred to presents the age-old argument in the way that, I believe, secures prevailing notions about the non-complimentary nature of biking and driving. Even though this particular author is a cyclist and a motorist, he could not help but present the two sides as oppositional He covers popular arguments for/against cycling and all of them sound the same: if we add bike lanes, then we take away from driveable lanes, leading to more traffic congestion and angrier motorists.

However, despite the somewhat dreary biking landscape, Toronto has brought on Philadelphia’s deputy commissioner of transportation. Considering that Philadelphia has booming biking paths and a steep decline in traffic crashes, we can hope that Buckley will bring this positive street-itude to Toronto. Therefore, I look forward to reporting more positive biking news in the near future!

Have No Fear Bixi is Here (to Stay?)

English: Bike sharing system in Toronto

English: Bike sharing system in Toronto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I had written a blog article a few weeks ago about the Toronto Transit Union’s poor reception of the bike-sharing program, Bixi. The TTC had argued that Bixi does not align with their mandate and therefore, could not be financially supported. Cyclists across this city were disappointed by this dismissal of such an incredible contribution to our city’s cheapest and most eco-friendly transportation. However, there is great news for our green travellers: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has persuaded three developers in her ward to contribute $1 million to the expansion of Bixi!

Currently, Toronto has 80 Bixi stations largely concentrated in the downtown core. This generous contribution from builders will enable 20 additional stations to be built. Neighbourhoods beyond the city centre will now have the chance to benefit from this community-focused and green-conscious program. What is really interesting is there appears to be a direct trade-off between vehicle and bike rights going on. These developers, in exchange for their Bixi donation, were allowed to build fewer parking spaces than city rules require. So hopefully, the residents in these building will be bike-friendly.

Wong-Tam does not want the growth to stop there. She argues that, if every ward was driven to do this, even Etobicoke could be riding on Bixi bikes in the not-faraway future. While it is not feasible for Ward 27 to fuel the entire program, Wong-Tam explains that expansion is occurring across the entire city. Developers are interested in different wards around Toronto; therefore, it should not be difficult to gain more funds to offset the potential green issues associated with large-scale development.

On the other hand, Mayor Ford has made his stance clear stating that, “the program is a failure and should be allowed to vanish from the Toronto landscape.” Therefore, it will be up to councillors to push for legislation that urges new developers to donate to the sustainability of bike sharing in Toronto. Arguably, he has a point and it is the same one that the TTC put forth. Currently, Bixi is being burdened by almost $4 million of debt. However, I would argue that the more the program is expanded, the more value it will have for all of Toronto.

Commuting to work from outside of the downtown core is a nightmare. Making bikes available to those beyond the city’s central limits will decrease traffic, increase exercise and benefit an even larger population of the city. All I can say is bring on the development if it brings on the Bixi!

Biking to the Toronto Film Festival

John Diogenous 

Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto (Photo credit: J. Good)

Although my blog often focuses on nature and the joys of spending time in it, I have a particular affinity for Toronto’s lively culture. One of the best, brightest and boldest features of our city is the Toronto International Film Festival – and it’s happening right now! This film festival features old stars, up and comers and has come to be renowned with the likes of Cannes. Toronto is blessed to host such an incredible festival and I would advise all of my blog readers to take advantage of this event before it’s too late!

People from all over the world are flooding into our city to see the incredible works of today’s most cutting edge directors. While TIFF is great for our economy and city culture, it does present some hazards in the way of increasing traffic and decreasing the already abysmal lack of parking.

However, these obstructions to travel should not prevent you from enjoying the festival’s screenings and events. Therefore, I would like to suggest that Torontonians consider biking as an option to find their way to TIFF. While biking may not seem like an explicitly fashionable choice of travel, it is eco-friendly, affordable and fast. Therefore, regardless if you wear a brand name helmet or not, you will still enjoy the many benefits that biking has to offer. For years, bloggers, adventurers and environmentalists have bragged the benefits of biking and attempted to incorporate it into the TIFF culture. With more and more people biking in Toronto than ever before, I believe this is the year to show Toronto that our culture needs a shift towards two wheels.

Despite the disappointing turn of events I discussed in my previous blog, Bixi is still up and running for TIFF. Therefore, as long as you have a valid credit card you will easily be able to access the joys of motor-free transportation. This is especially convenient for all of our out-of-city visitors as it negates the hassle of travelling with bicycle equipment. Visit the Bixi website to find a bike station near you: https://toronto.bixi.com. If you have never used Bixi before visit my previous blog to discover the benefits of bike-sharing in our busy city.

If you are a native Torontonian biking to TIFF would be a great way to spend date night. Get out your bike and your helmet and gear up for a night full of outdoor an

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

d cultural adventure. As the majority of the events are at nighttime, please take extra caution while biking and be sure to turn on your lights and wear bright clothing.

You can enjoy your bike night worry free by locking it up at a convenient location. Check out the TIFF map to discover the most convenient bike routes and bike racks: http://tiff.net/contact/mapanddirections. Be sure to bring your own lock, as they are not provided.

Toronto Bikers Beware: Surviving Toronto’s Most Dangerous Streets

English: Bicycle sharrows (shared-lane marking...

English: Bicycle sharrows (shared-lane markings) on Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Sharrows are placed in a travel lane to remind all road users that a bicyclist may use the full lane. They differ from bike lanes as there is no separate lane set aside for cyclists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After my blog post about dooring, I continued to explore other safety issues surrounding cycling in Toronto. Unfortunately, I encountered a lot of negative social media posts that contained complaints about the city’s inhabitable cycling nature. Beginner cyclists, and even those with years of experience, are hesitant to bike Toronto because of poor traffic conditions.

People reported that, “Toronto is so hostile to cyclists” and “It’s just pure luck that I survive the commute.” Other scorned cyclists condemned the conditions stating, “Most streets with bike lanes are pretty horrendous” or my personal favourite, “[biking in Toronto] is just suicidal.” Therefore, I wanted to briefly review some of Toronto’s trickier streets, as well as some suggestions regarding how to handle them.

Beware of Bloor

It appears drivers are not used to sharing the road with cyclists here. Due to Bloor’s high-density traffic, it appears as though many drivers believe that cyclists should not be allowed there at all. However, we are and they should learn to share.

Unfortunately on Bloor, we are both sharing the lanes with a whole other space-hogging presence – a mass of parked cars. The parked cars on Bloor make it nearly impossible to dodge doors. Therefore, cyclists are attempting to avoid parked, and fast moving vehicles making it nearly impossible to enjoy a peaceful ride.

Prepare to Cruise Casually on College

Cars aren’t the only force that cyclists have to face in Toronto’s lanes. For those of you that have to bike to work or to important extra-curricular activities – be prepared to set your cruise control well below the speed of common courtesy.

I admit that the bike lanes on College are well kept and I know that this should heighten cyclists’ desires to bike along this popular street; however, its popularity is exactly why it’s become a nightmare. Couples biking beside each other clog up the lanes and force fast-movers to swerve into oncoming traffic. Please cyclists, if you want to enjoy a cruise let people pass safely! Or, make sure you leave extra time to travel down College so you can enjoy your slow moving biking buddies, as opposed to braving traffic to arrive on time.

Look out for streets that cross on/off- ramps to a major highway

It’s nothing short of hair-raising when you’re coolly biking down one of Toronto’s streets and all of a sudden – boom – you’re headed onto a highway. I would highly recommend that bikers who are not overly familiar with Toronto’s on and off-ramps map them out before they take off for a ride. Make sure you know which lanes to avoid or how to properly maneuver to prevent yourself from crossing traffic that is speeding up for the highway.

I love biking in Toronto and I would never want to scare cyclists into leaving their bikes at home. However, Toronto’s streets require that you are constantly aware. Never stop checking your blind spots and do not make sudden turns. Know where you are going and take the safest route to get there. When you have the time, head to some of the best biking spots in our city (I have detailed them in my last blog!). Be safe and have your best bike yet in Toronto, Ontario

“Dooring” Major Danger for Toronto Cyclists

Santa Monica Door Lane / Bike Lane

Santa Monica Door Lane / Bike Lane (Photo credit: Gary Rides Bikes)

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! It seems that is the snarly approach that vehicles and authorities are taking towards Toronto cyclists’ injurious encounters with car doors. Every Torontonian cyclist understands the danger that our densely populated city presents to our commute.

Discussion regarding the support (or lack thereof) for Toronto’s cyclists erupted after a member of Cycle Toronto, Chavisa Brett, wrote a saddened letter. In this letter she outlined her literal run-in with a car door at the intersection of Carlton and Yonge Street in Toronto. Brett wrote that she was travelling to work when an individual in a parked car, feet ahead of her, flung open his/her door and Chavisa crashed directly into it.

Chavisa goes on to explain that she required 25 x-rays after the crash, as well as 2 weeks away from work. She sympathized with cyclists across Toronto and her emotive depiction elicited responses from several cyclists that had experienced similar fates.

Toronto cyclists refer to this all too common phenomenon as “dooring”. However, in Toronto dooring has no place in civil claims court – or anywhere else for that matter. Toronto officials define collisions in such a way that doorings go entirely unrecorded or unnoticed by public servants. Currently, 1,315 accidents involving bicycles were recorded last year. This is an extremely disturbing number especially when you consider that it does not include a single dooring.

Chicago police have been tracking doorings for three years. Between 250-300 doorings are reported each year and 50% of them require that an ambulance is called to the scene. Toronto and Chicago are directly comparable as they have nearly identical populations. Therefore, in my opinion, their data reveals a widespread problem that requires immediate attention.

In Chicago, a motorist that doors a cyclist can be charged up to $1, 000. In Toronto, the maximum fine for this disregard for cyclists’ safety is a whooping $85. Many cyclists have come forward with complaints to the Toronto police department stating that this fine does not reflect the severe physical damage that many dooring victims must endure.

Toronto police maintain that the definition of a collision includes “motion”. Therefore, cyclists need to recognize that a parked car’s swinging door does not count as motion and therefore, should not be recorded. A spokesperson for Traffic Services went so far as to compare recording doorings with recording the sunny days in a week. While public officials seem unmoved by Toronto’s epidemic, I hope that with more cyclists coming forth with heart wrenching stories that public opinion will be swayed. Let’s seek safety for Toronto’s cyclists. Don’t be shy stand up for your ride!