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Cycle Right Wrong?

Yesterday marked the end of the Toronto Police Services Cycle Right campaign. From June 20th to June 23rd Police claimed to be on lookout for motorists who were endangering the lives of cyclists by parking in bike lanes and opening their doors recklessly. They were also on the lookout for bikers who were weaving in traffic, biking on the sidewalk and especially for those careless ones who neglect to put their feet to the ground at stop signs.

According to the TPS web site 1200 cyclists are involved in collisions in Toronto every year and in a rather vague statement the police "say that the blame for those collisions is usually split 50-50 between drivers and cyclists."

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Although the type of collision is not specified on the TPS web site this would seem to be in conflict with the findings of a report on Bicycle and Motor vehicle collisions by the Toronto Transportation Services in 2003 which states:

"There may be a perception that many cyclists recklessly disobey stop-signs and traffic signals, the collision data indicates that less than 3% of collisions involve a cyclist failing to stop at a controlled intersection."

The report goes on to say that thought instituting "crack downs" and issuing large numbers of tickets to cyclists may yield short term results it does little in the way of improving the long term safety awareness of both cyclists and drivers.

Not to mention that at $110 a pop for failing to stop at a stop sign the 2200 tickets officers issued to cyclists in 2004 generated a fair amount of revenue. Hrmmmm cash grab? Issuing tickets to legitimize the effectiveness of harsh crackdowns?...

I bike apx. 12 miles a day right through the downtown core and in order to arrive at my destination in one piece I have to bike defensively and commit many of the illegal acts outlined in the Cycle Right campaign. The number of times I have to swerve out into traffic in order to avoid being doored or even worse, hop up onto the sidewalk in order to avoid a car stopping short in front of me (ahem, cabbies I am talking to YOU!) or cutting me off in the bike lane, well... let it suffice to say that I could not count these incidents on all my fingers and toes within a one week period.

In an Open letter to Police Chief Bill Blair, Darren Stehr of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists challenges the effectiveness of the campaign and requests that information on the findings of Cycle Right be made public once the blitz is complete. This information would help the city to evaluate the campaign and would provide valuable hints as to what needs to be done to reduce the number of bicycle related injuries and accidents.

The ARC outlines a number of ideas for improving cycling in Toronto in their 2002-03 Report Card on Bicycling in Toronto. In my opinion and theirs, the best way to improve cycling in Toronto would be to focus on cycling infrastructure. The city should be lauded for the addition of new bike lanes such as those on Royal York Rd. (although it will be a "reduced width lane"), Sherbourne and River. The addition of bike lanes on main East-West arteries such as Bloor, Queen and King Streets is still necessary as, according to the Report Card these are the most used routes and the routes where cyclists are most likely to be struck.

For all the information you ever wanted about cycling in Toronto visit the ARC Library.

Photo of Canada Post van parked in bike lane by Darren Stehr


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