It happened again.
On Tuesday, a 75-year-old man riding his bike through Rosedale was struck by a car as he passed through an intersection. He was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. No word yet on how he’s doing.
Had you heard about this? Probably not, because these headlines have become all too common. Earlier in May: “Toronto triathlete struck in hit-and-run.”
“Up to 90 per cent of bike accidents don’t even get reported to officials.”
In April: “Cyclist dies after being struck by car.”
Last October: “Cyclist killed in Scarborough.”
And just in Thursday morning: “Guilty plea in hit and run death of teacher Tom Samson.” A 35-year-old father of two and a Grade 2 teacher, Samson was biking to meet friends for breakfast when he was struck and killed at Davenport and Lansdowne.
It’s a frustrating truth; cycling in this city isn’t safe. Just look at the numbers. There were 31,481 collision reports in Toronto between 1986 and 2010, most of which were concentrated in the downtown core. But according to the Globe and Mail, that number is a massive underestimate; up to 90 per cent of bike accidents don’t even get reported to officials.
Furthermore, we’re scared of the road. A 2009 study found that many Torontonians want to get bikes but are too afraid of getting hit, despite proof that biking across town is often faster than driving.
Still don’t believe us? Check out this interactive map, which is splattered with purple dots, each representing a different bike-to-car accident. On some roads, there isn’t a metre of cement that isn’t purple.
“In Toronto, separated bike lanes are as scarce as empty seats at 416 Snack Bar on a Saturday night.”
It’s clear we have too many accidents. But who’s to blame? Both sides of the equation are quick to point fingers. Drivers often see cyclists as rogue hood-thumpers who swerve between rush-hour traffic and bend the rules of the road. Cyclists balk at drivers as careless, distracted road-hoggers who drift into designated bike lanes all too often.
These conversations are repetitive, divisive and frankly useless. Just consider their biggest proponent: superstar former mayor Rob Ford, who capitalized on dividing bikes and cars (not to mention downtown from the suburbs). It was Ford who compared bike lanes to “swimming with the sharks” and said “My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” Ford was later responsible for stick-handling the removal of the brand new Jarvis Street bike lanes, a move that had cyclists literally throwing themselves on the road in protest.
“Building a safer city gets stalled when the conversation is bogged down by bickering.”
Which leads us to the real problem: infrastructure.
Have you been to Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa recently? The city streets are lined with separated bike lanes. Montreal and Vancouver go so far as to lay strips of grass and trees between cars and bikes, further beautifying the city (but that’s another story).
In Toronto, separated bike lanes are as scarce as empty seats at 416 Snack Bar on a Saturday night. There’s a permanent one on Sherbourne Street, and, as of 2014, two pilot projects on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street. But there’s hope! Earlier this month, city staff approved extensions of the Richmond and Adelaide lanes, extending them east to Parliament, a move that will allow cyclists to safely cruise across the downtown core.
Still, these moves aren’t permanent, and they certainly aren’t happening quickly enough. Toronto City Council moves a snail’s pace, and approving new bike lanes doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar with the hype of the Pan Am Games just around the corner.
So what can we do for the time being? If you’re a driver, consider rethinking the way you talk about cyclists. If you’re a cyclist, vice versa. Ignorance isn’t a cute look, and building a safer city gets stalled when the conversation is bogged down by bickering rather than finding affordable, long-term solutions.
But for God’s sake, wear a helmet.
Who do you think is to blame for all the fatal bike accidents? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us your thoughts at @ViewTheVibe.