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

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“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!

Staying Safe in Bike Lanes

Bicycle lanes, which are designated areas of the road for the exclusive use of bicyclists only, are located in many cities and towns and are recognized by certain signs, stripes, and other markings or symbols along the street. In many cases, however, bicycle lanes are a fairly new addition to the roadways and pose as a challenge to some communities during the stages of design and implementation, especially in areas where traffic patterns and complex intersections already put a strain on the demand for solutions to these circumstances. Plain and common courtesy for other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians can enable you to avoid potential hazards while on-the-road.

Your own safety should be your number one priority while utilizing bicycle lanes as you should be looking out for everyone else on the road; this is only one way to make certain you can avoid possible obstacles or potential accidents in which you may encounter. Never be too sure to count solely on others’ safety on the roadways, especially in those high-traffic areas where drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians can easily become distracted. Always be sure to pay extremely close attention exactly as you would while driving a motorized vehicle because you could easily discover a potential, yet avoidable threat to your safety. Selecting a route with less traffic may sometimes take a little more time to get to your destination, but it is more likely that a little longer route with less traffic can be a lot faster than a busier, shorter route – safer, too!

Using hand signals while you are turning are a must in order to further increase the chances that other drivers and pedestrians will see you and where you are going. While at an intersection, be sure to try and make eye contact with other drivers to ensure he or she sees you; a friendly ‘thank you’ wave after you have been given the right of way by the other driver(s) would be an added nice gesture as well. If you have a tendency to begin weaving back and forth as you look behind you to see if there is anyone coming, it would be advised to install rear-view mirrors on your bicycle; this way you can still keep track of who or what is coming up behind you while facing forward, keeping your eyes on the road. Finally, excellent bicycling skills and techniques play a vital role in staying safe on roadways, but it isn’t the only way to stay safe. Please remember to always be fully aware of your surroundings and be cautious no matter what the road or traffic conditions may be like.