The Ontario Coroner’s Report on Cycling Deaths has sparked much reaction in the media lately, in particular surrounding the proposition of imposing a mandatory helmet law on cyclists. While this review is definitely worth a read, we feel that the helmet law in particular has overshadowed the rest and has stolen the attention of media to the detriment of the rest of the report. More on this in a later post.
With the exception of that one recommendation, the rest need serious consideration by all levels of government; in particular the implementation of a complete streets approach to road design, minimum passing distance for bicycles, and increased focus on educating drivers on how to share road space with people who ride bicycles.
The full report can be found here.
Recommendations – Infrastructure
1. To the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
A “complete streets” approach should be adopted to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the creation of new communities throughout Ontario. Such an approach would require that any (re-)development give consideration to enhancing safety for all road users, and should include:
- Creation of cycling networks (incorporating strategies such as connected cycling lanes, separated bike lanes, bike paths and other models appropriate to the community.)
- Designation of community safety zones in residential areas, with reduced posted maximum speeds and increased fines for speeding.
2. To the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
An Ontario Cycling Plan should be developed, building upon the 1992 Provincial Bicycle Policy. This Plan would establish a vision for cycling in Ontario, and would guide the development of policy, legislation and regulations and commitment of necessary infrastructure funding pertaining to cycling in Ontario. This plan should be publicly available.
3. To the Ministry of Transportation
The Ministry of Transportation should identify the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways as a high priority initiative.
Recommendations – Education
4. To the Ministry of Transportation
A comprehensive public education program should be developed to promote safer sharing of the road by all users. This initiative should be facilitated by the Ministry of Transportation, in collaboration with key stakeholder groups, including but not limited to, the Canadian Automobile Association, Share the Road Cycling Coalition, local cycling organizations and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Such a program should include:
- a targeted public awareness campaign, in the spring/summer months, with key messages around cycling safety. This could include changes arising from other recommendations from this Review (such as changes to the Highway Traffic Act).
- education targeted at professional truck drivers regarding awareness and avoidance of cycling dangers.
- education / regulation directed towards Beginning Driver Education (BDE) courses and driving instructors to include sharing the road and bicycle safety. This should be introduced in both classroom curricula and on-road training.
- public safety campaigns around the dangers of distracted and impaired cycling (headphone use; carrying unsafe loads; cycling while under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
5. To the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Consumer Services
It should be a requirement that important bicycle safety information (such as rules of the road and helmet information) be provided to purchasers of any new or used bicycle. Such information could be included in a “hang tag” information card attached to the handlebar of every bicycle at the time of purchase which would include critical information and a reference to the Ministry of Transportation website and Service Ontario for additional bicycle safety information and publications.
6. To the Ministry of Education
Cycling and road safety education should be incorporated into the public school curriculum. This could be done in partnership with organizations and agencies (such as the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA)) which have a mandate that relates to promotion of physical activity in youth and the enhancement of road safety.
7. To the Ministry of Transportation
The Official Driver’s Handbooks (Driver’s Handbook; Truck Handbook; Bus Handbook; Motorcycle Handbook) should be updated to provide expanded information around sharing the road with cyclists, and include cycling-related scenarios in driver examinations.
Recommendations – Legislation
8. To the Ministry of Transportation
A comprehensive review and revision of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) should be conducted to ensure that it is consistent and understandable with respect to cycling and cyclists and therefore easier to promote and enforce.
9. To the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the City of Toronto
A comprehensive review and revision of the Municipal Act, the City of Toronto Act and relevant Municipal By‐Laws should be conducted to ensure that they are consistent and understandable with respect to cycling and cyclists and therefore easier to promote and enforce.
10. To the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Consumer Services, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Provincial Police
The use of helmets by cyclists of all ages should be promoted and supported. Such a strategy should include:
- financial incentives, such as removal of tax on bicycle helmets and helmet rebate programs.
- promotion of helmet use through public awareness campaigns (including campaigns aimed at parents to support current legislation for cyclists under the age of 18).
- enforcement of existing legislation regarding helmet use in cyclists under the age of 18.
11. To the Ministry of Transportation
The Highway Traffic Act should be amended to make helmets mandatory for cyclists of all ages in Ontario. This should occur in conjunction with an evaluation of the impact of mandatory helmet legislation on cycling activity in Ontario. Such an evaluation strategy should be developed and carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Public Health Ontario.
12. To the Ministry of Transportation
The Highway Traffic Act should be amended to include a one (1) meter / three (3) foot passing rule for vehicles when passing cyclists. This change in legislation should be reflected in the Ontario Driver’s Handbook, Beginning Driver Education curricula and the driver’s licence examination process.
13. To Transport Canada
Side-guards should be made mandatory for heavy trucks in Canada. In addition, consideration should also be given to requiring additional safety equipment (such as blind spot mirrors and blind spot warning signs) to make cyclists more visible to trucks and decrease the chance of a collision, especially during right-hand turns.
Recommendation – Enforcement
14. To the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Municipalities and police services (municipal/regional/provincial) should review local data related to cycling injuries and fatalities in order to identify and address opportunities for targeted education, public safety interventions and enforcement activities.