Cyclists at fault in about 66% of collisions – Your reaction?

Terry Pender, the urban affairs reporter from The Record, is looking for a reaction from our region’s cycling community regarding the following:

It appears cyclists are at fault in about 60 to 66 percent of the cases (>200 cyclist/vehicle collisions in Waterloo Region). Riding off the sidewalk and into an intersection appears to be one of the most common causes of cyclist-vehicle collisions. This is the complete reversal of the stats for vehicle pedestrian collisions where drivers are at fault in two thirds of the accidents. Terry is looking for some reaction and observations from the cycling community. Do we need more education for cyclists? Do we need more segregated bicycle trails? Any other ideas? Please share this with other cyclists you know.

14 thoughts on “Cyclists at fault in about 66% of collisions – Your reaction?

  1. More education for cyclists? Sure. More on-street bike-lanes? Probably. More segregated bike trails? Maybe. Better reports on cycling collisions, which would help us answer questions like these? Definitely.

    Did Terry read my letter?

    We have no idea why these collisions occurred other than the mysterious “cyclist at fault” check box. If they are occurring on streets with bike lanes, then bike lanes may not be the solution, but I expect they are not. If they are occurring in intersections, we might need some improvement there. Some of those collisions involving cyclists riding off a sidewalk might well include cyclists crossing the roads which intersect the Iron Horse, but have no lighting or paint on the sidewalk. Although it’s unlikely, 90% of these collisions could be occurring in the exact same location and we’d have no idea.

    If Terry wants to right an inflammatory article arguing that bikes are a public nuisance, he’d have plenty of material in this report. But if he wants to write a useful article, he might suggest as I did, that proper urban planning needs decent research. How can we make useful suggestions for improvement based on a simple statistic like this?

    Best guess: If 66% of driver/pedestrian collisions are the drivers’ fault, they are probably the result of drivers not looking for street-crossers before turning right. It sounds like the same thing is happening when cyclists are getting hit at intersections, but in this case, it’s legally the cyclist’s fault because he/she is illegally riding on the sidewalk. This means that if cyclists were riding in bike lanes on the right instead of on the sidewalk, we’d have the same number of collisions (or more) but drivers would be at fault. Try crossing Erb street out of Waterloo park heading south on Caroline, and see how many drivers turn right in front of you without looking. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist.

    1. Great idea to link to the letter. We are hoping he goes through all the comments and related articles here to get an idea where we stand.

  2. To the chagrin of a large majority of fellow cyclists, I’m a proponent of sidewalk cycling. It only makes sense to me since the size and speed cyclists and pedestrians are much closer than cyclists automobiles. Not to get into the details, but your riding style has to change when you’re on the sidewalk.

    When you put the question like you have it, it seems that the majority of ped-motorist collisions have the same cause as cycle-motorist collisions. The difference is that the bylaw states that the cyclist shouldn’t be in the crosswalk.

    So, according to the law, the cyclist is at fault, no argument. But the exact same collision minus the two wheels puts the motorist at fault.

    What I take away is that cars aren’t watching intersections for pedestrians or cyclists and cyclists are at-fault due to a technicality.

    The reason I view the ‘at-fault’ distinction as a technicality is that while I’ve spent a lot more time running the sidewalks than biking, I’ve also had far more close calls as a runner on the sidewalk than a cyclist on the sidewalk.

    Maybe the answer is helmets and safety vests for runners!

    1. Unless they’ve been demonically possessed, drivers’ necks can only turn so far to the right, Rob. If you are coming to the intersection at a decent clip (whether on foot or on bike) and there’s someone turning right, I feel it’s your moral obligation to make sure you’re seen before crossing in front of them. Maybe that’s what you meant by a different riding style on the sidewalk.

      1. That’s exactly what I mean.

        What I’m also suggesting is that motorists look directly in front of them before hitting the accelerator. I’m pretty sure that’s even a rule.

      2. As you said in your other post Jonathan, we need better research. I wonder if the bulk of these collisions are the sort of case you envision (cyclist speeding into crosswalk so drivers have less chance to see them), or more along the lines of what Rob suggests.

        My gut feeling is that it’s a mix, maybe 80-20 driver inattention to bad sidewalk cycling, given the numbers we see for (what I assume are) similar pedestrian-motorist collisions.

    2. The difference is that the bylaw states that the cyclist shouldn’t be in the crosswalk.

      Actually, the Highway Traffic Act states that cyclists should not be in crosswalks. The Kitchener and Waterloo city bylaws state that bicycles of wheel diameter > 50cm should not be on sidewalks.

      It’s well-known that police don’t enforce that particular portion of the traffic bylaw. In many cases, they will actually encourage cyclists to use sidewalks.

      There are, however, very good reasons to enforce the “no riding through crosswalks” law (and when I say law, this particular one has the same weight as speeding laws and licensing laws also specified in the HTA). Cars are not expecting 30kph traffic to jump out in front of them on a sidewalk when they are executing a turn. It is not feasible to ask every driver to perform a left shoulder check and look hundreds of metres back on the opposite sidewalk before turning left through an intersection. In many cases, as cyclist that far back would even be obscured by other traffic, parked cars, or any number of ostacles.

      As far as your argument about size and speed comparisons, I regularly hit speeds of over 40kph on my ride home from work. Were I to run into a pedestrian (who has no rules of behaviour, and is incredibly unpredicatble on the sdiewalk) at 40kph, it is not unreasonable to assume that I would cause them severe injury, and possibly even kill them. I ride on the road, with the rest of the vehicles, because I ride in a predictable manner, and the other vehicles are supposed to move in a predictable manner.

      I’m not going to insist that everyone else rides their bikes on the road as well. I’d much rather see 100 new cyclists on the sidewalks than 10 new cyclists on the road. However, I do have a request to those that don’t feel comfortable taking their rightful place amongst the automobiles. Please slow down. Please be careful. Nobody expects you to be on the sidewalk. Nobody expects you to be moving quickly on the sidewalk. Pedestrians are going to step in front o fyou without looking. Cars aren’t going to see you at crosswalks. Make sure you have enough room and time to react to these things. If this means slowing to a walking pace when you go through intersections, so be it. That’s the price you have to pay in order to feel safer through riding on the sidewalk instead of the road.

      1. It’s fair to say a bike ‘could’ go as fast as a car, I wouldn’t argue otherwise. However, most riders I see on the sidewalk are going much slower and would be more reasonably classified with pedestrians.

        I don’t really want to debate the cost-benefit of sidewalk cycling, save that for when I post about why it’s fine and sane to ride on the sidewalk. What I’m saying is, the statistic is stating that regardless of how fast or reckless the cyclist was, it’s automatically his fault for being in the crosswalk which I find ludicrous.

        The real issue IMO is that drivers aren’t looking ahead when they pull through the crosswalk as evidenced by the fact that they nearly run me down when I’m a pedestrian. There’s no evidence the bike changes anything for the good, or the bad. What it does, is slant the rule against the non-motorist.

        edit – There’s no evidence that a responsibly driven bike changes anything for the good, or the bad. What it does, is slant the rule against the non-motorist.

  3. I think more education for drivers is at least as important as more education for cyclists. Why are cyclists on the sidewalk in the first place? Mostly because they feel don’t feel safe on the road. While there are many factors that play into this, I think speeding, impatient passing and other aggressive behaviour by motorists is a big part of the problem.

    Segregated bike paths are not an answer. Cyclists will still have to use the roads sometimes, and without a major investment the intersections of the bikepaths and roads will be as dangerous, if not moreso, than the intersections where these collisions are already happening.

  4. “That’s exactly what I mean.

    What I’m also suggesting is that motorists look directly in front of them before hitting the accelerator. I’m pretty sure that’s even a rule.”

    yes rob, it’s called reckless driving, not to be confused with wreckless driving ;)

  5. That sure goes against what those in Australia found last year:

    “In 88.9% of cases, the cyclist had been travelling in a safe/legal manner prior to the collision/near miss.”

    I also believe a study out of Toronto found similar numbers to those in Australia.

    I use to be against sidewalk cycling, but I now believe as long as cities are going to ignore cyclists safety by simply adding a strip of paint and calling it a bike lane, all the while you have vehicles whizzing by at 60, 70 or even 80 km/h, then sidewalk cycling seems fine.
    I just encourage those who do ride on sidewalks to not be a dink when passing pedestrians.

    As for collisions at crosswalks. Whenever I *walk* in my neighbourhood cars seldom stop at the crosswalk (stop sign actually).

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