Today the cycling blogosphere was all a buzz with the release of the ontario coroner’s report on Cycling Deaths in Ontario in 2011. And apparently as reported by Bill Bean it wasn’t just the cycling bloggers who were sniffing out a story, the press was there as well:
I love how the press is trying to sell news papers with this issue. I expect most will make this as divisive as possible, whatever sells advertising! Most of them pick up on the reports statement of preventable deaths and then skip to the mandatory helmet recommendation leading the reader to think the report links them directly, it does not.
On my first read I was immediately hit in the face with the onslaught of ‘cyclist killed by motor vehicle, not wearing a helmet’. These statements in the media and police reports drive me crazy cause we all know that an inch of styrofoam isn’t going to prevent cycling deaths with steel cages moving at high speeds. I wasn’t expecting in this report, but in hindsight I’m not sure why.
In the Record’s article they start off by mentioning the death of ‘Tiberiu Alexandru David, 43, <who> was killed in 2010 when he was struck from behind by a car on University Avenue in Waterloo.’ What they don’t mention is that he was struck by a 21 year old motorist who was driving with a forged license while his real license was suspended. This 21 year old was given careless, which is what he would have got if he had hit a telephone pole. This accident was definitely preventable, but has nothing to do with helmets. This young man should have been charged criminally with manslaughter. If this guy had decided to abide by the rules he wouldn’t have been behind a motor vehicle, but he broke the law and his actions resulted in the death of Tiberiu.
I’m not saying that wearing helmets isn’t a good idea but it shouldn’t be mandated, especially with all the data showing the negative impact of such laws (I’ll wade into the helmet debate another time).
I wish the coroner’s report had left out the mandatory helmet law cause there are a lot of good ideas in the report that unfortunately won’t get much air time:
- Adoption of a “complete streets” approach – to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the design of new communities throughout Ontario. I wish this had instead been a recommendation to invest in segrated bike lanes throughout and within Ontario’s cities and small towns.
- Development of an Ontario Cycling Plan to guide the development of policy, legislation and regulations and the commitment of infrastructure funding to support cycling in Ontario. Again I hope this translates into more segregated bike lanes (by segregation I don’t mean paint beside a car lane).
- A comprehensive cycling safety public awareness and education strategy, starting in public schools, and continuing through the purchase of every new and used bicycle and through driver’s license testing. This is an awesome recommendation. Education in our public schools is going to be key to changing away from our car centric culture and urban designs.
- Legislative change (Highway Traffic Act (HTA); Municipal Act; relevant Municipal By-Laws) aimed at ensuring clarity and consistency regarding interactions between cyclists and other road users.
- Strategies to promote and support helmet use for cyclists of all ages.
- Implementation of mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages, within the context of an evaluation of the impact of this legislation on cycling activity. #BOO – Mandatory helmet laws will not help. Look at the case study in Australia. When implemented bicycle use plummeted. The good thing, our urban planners and legislative bodies are familiar with the negatives of mandatory bike laws.
- Establishment of a “one-meter” rule for vehicles when passing cyclists. Great law helping that could go a long ways to educating drivers to share the road with other users (cyclists and pedestrians).
- Prioritizing the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways Yay! Waterloo Region and surrounding areas have been doing this for a while and it’s heavenly to take a bike ride in our country side.
- Mandatory side-guards for heavy trucks.Enforcement, education and public safety activities targeted to the specific issues of cycling safety identified in a given community. Lots of cycling advocates are asking for this change, I need to familiarize myself with the issues on this one before forming an opinion.
If you read through my rambly musings my question is: How do we leverage the postives of this report and keep our communities moving in a direction where alternative forms of transportation continue to be prioritized?